USA — Lessons learned from a runaway brush-clearing fire that charred 7,500 acres near Yosemite National Park last summer have changed how such fires will be managed, a park official said.
The park will fill vacant firefighter jobs, have all planned fires reviewed by National Park Service fire management staff and pay more attention to forest conditions around planned burns to “minimize potential for escaped fire,” said Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb.
The Big Meadow fire escaped the boundaries of a controlled burn set by park fire crews on Aug. 26.
Roads and campgrounds were closed and about 50 homes in the Foresta residential area were threatened until the fire was contained nearly two weeks later.
A review of the Big Meadow fire by the National Park Service identified improvements in how prescribed burns are planned and managed, Cobb said.
In addition to fully staffed fire crews, administrative demands on burn bosses will be streamlined so they are less distracted.
Plans for all prescribed burns in Yosemite must be approved by the National Park Service’s regional fire management office before they are started.
Each year, as a way of managing forest growth, park officials set fires to mimic natural fires that burn low-lying brush and small trees.
Several controlled fires are planned near Yosemite’s Crane Flat area, but dates for the burns have not been set.
Sequoia National Park officials recently announced that fire crews will be working on seven small brush-burning fires in the Ash Mountain area over the next two weeks.
Plans for the 89-acre controlled burn that morphed into the Big Meadow fire had followed federal guidelines, reviewers said. But those plans failed to account for problems, such as dead trees from a previous fire, just outside the burn boundaries.
In the future, Yosemite fire officials are to pay more attention to conditions around areas to be burned and will keep better records of changes in fire danger and weather, Cobb said.