April 5, 2013 - Fire crews plan to begin ignitions on Heliport and the Valley Floor Prescribed Fires in Kings Canyon National Park on Tuesday, April 9, weather and air-quality conditions permitting.
The Heliport Prescribed Fire is located on the valley floor of the Kings Canyon, along the south side of the road near the NPS emergency heliport site and takes advantage of the 2010 Sheep Fire that burned to the east of this area. The project is 28 acres in size and should be completed in one day. This unit was last burned in 1998.
The Valley Floor Prescribed Fire is north of the Kings River and the Sheep Creek and Sentinel Campgrounds. It takes advantage of the 2010 Viewpoint and 2011 Nature Trail prescribed fires to the west. This unit is 95 acres. However, it can be safely segmented into four different sections and fire crews will complete individual segments as conditions allow. Some segments of this unit burned in 1994, some in 1998, and some have no recent recorded fire history. Ignitions on this unit will be completed over two days and are reliant on conditions remaining favorable.
Fire has long been a natural process in the Sierra Nevada. Fire suppression policies over the last century have resulted in abnormally high levels of forest fuels. Prescribed fire consumes these fuels under favorable conditions. This reduces the risk of an unwanted fire during hotter, drier conditions. This fuels reduction is important for the developed areas of Cedar Grove.
The Cedar Grove area shows the most frequent fire cycle in the parks, with fire occurring approximately once every three to ten years. This level of frequent fire is likely influenced by Native American burning practices. In Cedar Grove, local tribes used fire to encourage the growth of black oak; a staple food source.
This is an ideal time to complete this project. A dry winter means that the Cedar Grove is in prescription nearly a month earlier than in "typical" years. Fire crews are taking advantage of this early season prescription window to complete the project prior to Cedar Grove opening to visitors.
There may be temporary closures on the Don Cecil Trail for approximately a month and employees and contractors working to open the Cedar Grove are may experience episodic smoke, especially in the morning hours when the inversion is in place.
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