Fire studies at Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks

Above: A bison in Yellowstone National Park, May 25, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Two recent and ongoing studies at the two big “Y” parks are yielding results about fire behavior and the effects of naturally occurring fire. The excerpts below are both from

The first is about allowing wildfires to burn at Yosemite National Park, rather than suppressing them:

An unprecedented 40-year experiment in a 40,000-acre valley of Yosemite National Park strongly supports the idea that managing fire, rather than suppressing it, makes wilderness areas more resilient to fire, with the added benefit of increased water availability and resistance to drought.

After a three-year, on-the-ground assessment of the park’s Illilouette Creek basin, University of California, Berkeley researchers concluded that a strategy dating to 1973 of managing wildfires with minimal suppression and almost no preemptive, so-called prescribed burns has created a landscape more resistant to catastrophic fire, with more diverse vegetation and forest structure and increased water storage, mostly in the form of meadows in areas cleared by fires.

“When fire is not suppressed, you get all these benefits: increased stream flow, increased downstream water availability, increased soil moisture, which improves habitat for the plants within the watershed. And it increases the drought resistance of the remaining trees and also increases the fire resilience because you have created these natural firebreaks,” said Gabrielle Boisramé, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and first author of the study…

The next article covers a study into the fire behavior of this summer’s fires that spread through the footprints of the 1988 fires in Yellowstone National Park.

…”Largely up until this point, fire has not necessarily carried well through the ’88 fire scars,” Yellowstone fire ecologist Becky Smith said. “I mean, it definitely has before, but it usually takes very specific conditions, like high winds or a very specific fuel bed. But this year, we’re definitely seeing it burn much more readily in the ’88 fire scars.”

The park has called in a special federal team that studies fire behavior to find out why.

“We’re trying to use it as a good learning opportunity to try and really narrow our focus on how and when the ’88 fire scars will burn,” Smith said. The 1988 wildfires burned 36 percent of the park.

It’s the first time Yellowstone has used the special team’s services, she said.

The 13-member team is studying two fires burning in the 1988 fire scar. It has deployed special heat-resistant equipment with sensors, cameras and other instruments to measure things like temperature and wind where the fires are burning…

Thousands of lightning strikes in southern California

(Above: lightning strikes in the 24 hours before 1 p.m. PDT October 24, 2016.)

Thousands of lightning strikes have occurred in southern California between Sunday afternoon and Monday afternoon.

Dynamic photos from fire in Lake View Terrace, CA

Jeff Zimmerman of Zimmerman Media took some excellent photos at a fire in Lake View Terrace north of Los Angeles last week. The fire spread quickly during Santa Ana wind conditions and burned about 60 acres before several hundred firefighters from Los Angeles County and the U.S. Forest Service contained it after a two-hour battle.

Thankfully for Jeff, California has a different, some would say more enlightened, way of handling the media at emergencies and disasters than some other areas. There are few restrictions as long as the reporters do not interfere with incident operations. Their rights are protected by California Penal Code 409.5d.

lake terrace wildfire

lake terrace wildfire

lake terrace wildfire

All photos are by Jeff Zimmerman.

Rainfall in western states slows wildfire season in many areas

Rainfall last 2 weeks washington oregon
Rainfall last 2 weeks, Washington and Oregon

Rainfall over the last two weeks has slowed or in some cases, ended the wildfire season in some areas.

On October 19 we ran the numbers for the accumulated precipitation for the last 14 days in the western states. These maps show amounts that exceeded 0.05 inches at some of the Interagency Remote Automatic Weather Stations (RAWS).

Washington, Oregon, and northern California have received a good soaking and I would imagine that local fire officials may be declaring an end to the fire season. Of course this is not unusual for these areas this time of the year, and some locations had already seen their season end. But what IS unusual, is the high amount of moisture that occurred in just two weeks.

You can click on the images to see larger versions.

Rainfall last 2 weeks, northern California
Rainfall last 2 weeks, northern California
Rainfall last 2 weeks central California
Rainfall last 2 weeks, central California

Continue to see maps for the other western states.
Continue reading “Rainfall in western states slows wildfire season in many areas”

Impressive photo from the Sacata Fire

It took me a few seconds to figure out what I was seeing in this very interesting photo taken by Marta Kroger at the Sacata Fire. It appears to be the shadow of a fire lookout tower projected onto smoke, presumably from the fire, and probably very late in the day or just after sunrise. But I’m at a loss to explain the rainbow effect around the shadow. It’s almost like the tower acted as a prism.

The fire is on the Sierra National Forest 26 air miles northeast of Fresno, California. More information about the fire is here.

Hazardous tree on the Emerald Fire

Above: Hazardous tree on the Emerald Fire. CAL FIRE Amador-El Dorado photo.

CAL FIRE described this as one of the “many enormous hazard trees on the Emerald Fire. This tree has nearly an eight-foot diameter.”

Hazardous tree
Hazardous tree on the Emerald Fire. CAL FIRE Amador-El Dorado photo.

The Emerald Fire burned 176 acres on the south end of Lake Tahoe near Emerald Bay in California when it started on October 14. After being pushed initially by very strong winds gusting up to 55 mph the spread has been stopped by firefighters — and heavy precipitation. The removal of hazardous trees from Highway 89 and around residences is ongoing. Debris continues to impact the roadway due to the high winds and torrential rains.