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2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Discussion related to Sierra Nevada current and forecast conditions, as well as general precautions and safety information. Trail conditions, fire/smoke reports, mosquito reports, weather and snow conditions, stream crossing information, and more.
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Re: 2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby SweetSierra » Sat Sep 07, 2013 6:00 pm

Kpeter,
Thanks for your detailed post about where the fire may potentially (or is) spreading in various drainages. I have a fondness for this region, namely Laurel Lake and 10 Lakes Basin (White Wolf), and areas around Hetch Hetchy. I appreciate the update.



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Re: 2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby rlown » Sat Sep 07, 2013 6:05 pm

And who is going there this year or next? It would be awsome if someone did and documented it (if allowed).
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Re: 2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby caddis » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:12 am

Here is a great graph that gives insight as to why fires are so large, intense, and destructive now

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A graph of 400 years of fire history derived from tree ring samples taken along transects near Yosemite National Park (the various horizontal lines) shows a sharp drop in frequency starting in the late 19th century

Fires are supposed to be natural, common, and cleansing. Today they are monstrous and destructive
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Re: 2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby caddis » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:18 am

great article here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... 8-26-00:01

By 1970, scientists realized that the fire suppression methods that had been official policy in Yosemite since the park's inception were actually doing more harm than good. The lack of natural fires caused by lightning had led to overgrown and unhealthy forests that made them more vulnerable to larger, more dangerous fires.

As a result, the National Park Service has for the past 40 years conducted carefully managed "prescribed burns" to clear unsafe accumulations of dead wood and for ecological restoration purposes.

The effects of these fires still fall far short of what scientists think once occurred naturally, however. It’s estimated that an average of 16,000 of Yosemite’s 747,000 acres may have burned under natural conditions in the park each year. Since the 1970s, prescribed fires have burned between 12,200 and 15,600 acres per decade.
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Re: 2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby kpeter » Sun Sep 08, 2013 12:13 pm

A family member has a doctorate in fire ecology and works for a government agency (not for one of the forests/agencies involved in this fire.) He is one of the researchers who studies increment cores and puts together the fire histories of forests, as well as studying ways of recreating natural fires, which are absolutely necessary for some species to survive. Suppression has already rendered certain species nearly extinct in some parts of the country.

It is hard to know the "natural" patterns of fire in California, however, because native Americans deliberately burned much of the state on a regular basis. Call it an early form of controlled burn. It is impossible to get increment cores (even from dead stumps) that go back before native American occupation, so there is not much evidence for what fires were like prior to human habitation. The fascinating graph provided by Caddis above is probably a reflection of the confinement and destruction of Native Americans more than it it of direct fire suppression, which came along later. After all, the frequency of fires drops at precisely the time in history that California's Native Americans were under the greatest assault.

According to my family member with the doctorate (and inside knowledge), agencies would like to do many more controlled burns but are hampered by two things. First is the fear of lawsuits if the fire should get out of control and damage someone's property. A megafire like this one is horrible, but under our legal system the only person who could be liable for it is the idiot hunter who started it. But if the Forest Service had done 500 small controlled burns it would be on the hook for many more millions in damages than it will be for this holocaust.

Second is the expense of doing a good controlled burn. Controlled burns require large crews and lots of equipment on standby, plus they require an investment in quality science and meteorology to determine where and when to burn. The Forest Service has suffered cut after cut after cut over the years and simply has no money for these things. It used to be funded primarily from timber sales, but as we transitioned to better forestry practices the timber industry is no longer substantially bankrolling the agency. While some would say that is a good thing, the taxpayers never made up the difference. The number of scientists working for the Forest Service is probably 10% of what it once had, and it cannot afford hundreds of crews of fire fighters to supervise controlled burns on the order of magnitude that is needed. Heck, a Forest is lucky if it can afford one crew of college students to work on a trail or two over the summer.

In Political Science we have a term for bad management practices--we call it "firefighting." In other words, a bad manager simply responds to fires as they come up rather than taking leadership to change the conditions. Nowhere is this term more applicable than in actual firefighting!
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Re: 2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby rlown » Sun Sep 08, 2013 12:45 pm

a nice summary, kpeter. I wonder what the native americans got paid to maintain their land.

anyway: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?sectio ... le-9240557

Seems like 89 mill and what "damage control/restoration" costs will be, it's smarter to burn early and often.
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2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby ironmike » Sun Sep 08, 2013 1:17 pm

I have heard that fire restrictions may be modified in SEKI next week, with restrictions lifted above 6000' (up to the usual maximums). Nothing on the website as of yet, though. Can anyone else corroborate?
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Re: 2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby Cheetahwoka » Sun Sep 08, 2013 11:35 pm

I've been researching the latest on smoke, to plan the next hike, and thought I'd pass on what I found out.

The lightning-ignited Fish Fire in the Golden Trout Wilderness in the lower Kern, that was discovered Aug. 23, is fully contained, and 2060 acres, as of 9/4. I could smell the smoke clear up Wallace and Wright Creek drainages Aug. 23 and 24, and see the mushroom cloud pluming up in the south like a thunderhead. It was getting blown up the Kern all the way from the Golden Trout Wilderness. Don't know how bad the smoke is currently, or how far it's reach, but I would expect not terrible.

Reported 9/4: The Windy Fire on the Tule River Indian Reservation (just W of Golden Trout Wilderness) was limited to just 200 acres and crews were mopping up Tuesday 9/3.

A new fire, believed to be lightening-ignited, was reported today. Called the Angora Fire, it's also in the Golden Trout Wilderness, so far 150 acres, still burning, near the top of Angora Mt.

Aspen Fire, S of Mammoth Pool on the San Joaquin, I found Aug 18 report here: http://www.inciweb.org/incident/3552/
It said as of 8/18 it's 22,800 acres, 95% contained, and burning toward natural barriers. Pretty old report, but it sounds like it's pretty much finished.

The Rim Fire in Yosemite - an article in today's Fresno Bee said, "A layer of smoke and haze blanketed the central San Joaquin Valley on Sunday as the Rim fire in Yosemite National Park spread southward. The National Weather Service in Hanford attributed shifting winds and low humidity to the fire's increased activity. Meteorologist David Spector said the haze may remain trapped in the Valley for a few days until a stronger pressure system arrives to push the smoke east..."
Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/09/08/348 ... rylink=cpy

Regardless of the smoke, Central Valley temps are predicted to be 103 Monday and Tuesday, and then go down to the 90's the rest of the week. High Central Valley temps translate into thunderstorms in the Sierra and unhealthy air quality, and yes those are predicted too, for Tuesday and Wednesday.

How's the air looking in Mammoth and Bishop today? Or even Lone Pine? Hope this was helpful.
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Re: 2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby caddis » Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:28 am

kpeter wrote:
According to my family member with the doctorate (and inside knowledge), agencies would like to do many more controlled burns but are hampered by two things. First is the fear of lawsuits if the fire should get out of control and damage someone's property. ....

Second is the expense of doing a good controlled burn.


Third is federal air standards
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Re: 2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby kpeter » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:06 pm

The fire continues to spread in the Kibbie and Eleanor region.

1. KIBBIE RIDGE. After having spread North along the Kibbie Ridge trail for half a mile and stabilizing for about a week, it has now headed headed east (downhill) and cut the Kibbie Lake trail in one spot. I seem to recall that it is now entering another burn zone from a while back, so it is probably getting brush now.

2. KIBBIE SOUTH. Meanwhile, the tongue of fire south of Kibbie has now burned about half way to Flora. I've been watching this tongue for a couple of weeks now, and it just keeps slowly spreading--not biting off large new chunks but every day it advances. If you want to know where this tongue is, just look at old TRs for the route from Flora to Kibbie.

Between 1 and 2 it is beginning to look like a pair of jaws are opening up around Kibbie Lake. Not quite there yet--I'm hoping that granite and past burns will prevent them from closing.

3. ELEANOR/KENDRICK. There are now patches of fire burning in the Eleanor Creek canyon, but the burn zone is mostly to the north of the canyon on the ridge. It is now more than halfway from Lake Eleanor to Bartlett Creek and Kendrick Creek. The satellite overlay shows a fair bit more forest/heavy brush in its path before it hits granite, so barring weather or firefighting I would anticipate this has a ways to go.

4. HH to BEEHIVE. On the Hetchy-Hetchy to Beehive trail, the fire had stabilized but just over the last couple of days it rather dramatically crossed the trail from the top of the switchbacks for about a mile. That fire line, if there was one, collapsed. I also see fire perimeter up at the pond on the way to Beehive--an area that had already burned. (I hated that portion of the trail from the pond to Beehive that went through a prior burn zone. Now it will be the whole trail from halfway down the switchbacks to Beehive that will have burned.)

5. HARDAN LAKE/WHITE WOLF/TIOGA ROAD. It seems obvious to me that this is where they are doing some serious firefighting. Hot spots keep popping up in advance of the fireline and yet the fire perimeter does not expand. It looks to me as if they are just letting it go until it gets to Tioga Road in the areas closer to Crane Flat. Closer to White Wolf the fire has advanced to be less than half a mile to Harden Lake, but hot spots that have gone past Harden Lake have been put out.
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Re: 2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby Cheetahwoka » Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:43 pm

Thanks kpeter, great post.

I talked to the rangers near Lake Edison, and they said the smoke is really bad there today. Said yesterday not too bad, but today really bad. So Silver Divide and Bear Creek basin are out, for me.
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Re: 2013 Fire & Smoke Reports

Postby Cheetahwoka » Wed Sep 11, 2013 2:08 am

Fire restrictions have changed at SEKI. As of yesterday, camp fires are now allowed in the backcountry above 6,000'. I was told this verbally when I talked to a gal at the Wilderness office at Ash Mt. I haven't looked at the website.

The normal restrictions apply for high elevations, which can vary depending on the exact location, but usually no campfires are ever allowed above 10,000'. Special locations, such as Granite Basin, also never allow fires. I think Mineral King might still have a ban, since I seem to remember it had one even before the special fire restrictions.

Yay, I can roast my fish over a fire! Except that I am almost always camping above 10,000'.... :paranoid:
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