By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER
They're burning in the spring to prevent burning in the summer.
It's prescribed burning season again, and officials from Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park will begin lighting forest underbrush this week.
Prescribed burns are one of many methods for clearing brush and small trees. When undergrowth dries out in the summer heat, it can serve as kindling for hot, intense wildfires that leap to the tops of tall trees and kill them.
With the recent cool days and moist vegetation, fire officials consider spring and fall ideal times for lighting safe, controlled burns. Short flames crawl across the forest floor, clearing debris, while leaving big trees unharmed.
In Stanislaus National Forest, spokesman Jerry Snyder said burns are planned in the Wrights Creek plantation area, southeast of Long Barn, and in the Dorrington area off Highway 4.
Fire officials will light those burns as soon as Mother Nature allows. Burning brush should be moist enough to keep the flames small but still dry enough to catch fire. Too much wind or high temperatures also can delay a burn.
"We maintain our facilities and have people ready," Snyder said. "When conditions become right, we launch."
In Yosemite National Park, spokesman Scott Gediman said prescribed burns totaling 640 acres will be ignited near Wawona in early May and will continue through June. A series of small burns will be lit south of Wawona on Studhorse Ridge, and another prescribed fire will burn between Chowchilla Mountain Road, Big Creek and the Wawona campground. Twenty more acres of prescribed burns will be lit in El Portal.
As vegetation dries in the higher elevations, about 200 acres will be ignited in the Merced Grove area. Another 339 acres will burn near Tamarack Flat.
Park officials said the spring's prescribed fires should conclude by July 1.
Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at gbookwalter@ uniondemocrat.com .