Park undertakes fire thinning

Union Democrat staff

Fire crews in Yosemite National Park have begun two projects aimed at clearing dense vegetation that could fuel potentially catastrophic wildfires.

Yosemite fire managers announced that work began Tuesday on hazardous fuels reduction projects in the Hetch Hetchy and Foresta areas of the park.

The crews are cutting, piling and mechanically thinning vegetation including brush and shade tolerant conifers, such as cedar, white fir and ponderosa pine, according to the announcement. They are also clearing accumulated fuels on the forest floors, such as sticks and logs.

Residents or visitors in the area are advised they may see and hear chainsaws as well as crews cutting trees and piling brush for burning later in the year when conditions are cool and wet, fire managers said.

The Hetch Hetchy project is funded by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and is intended to reduce fuels near housing units, historic structures and other infrastructure near O'Shaughnessy Dam, the announcement stated.

Meanwhile, the Foresta project is part of ongoing efforts within the community to reduce hazardous wildfire fuels, according to Yosemite fire managers.

The latest thinning project is west of First and Second streets and being conducted by Cal Fire's Mount Bullion hand crew.

The National Park Service says these fuel reduction projects help preserve natural and cultural resources while also providing for public and firefighters safety. The projects create separation between hazardous vegetation and cabins, homes and the forest itself, NPS said.

When the projects are completed, residents and visitors will notice a clearer, more open forest reminiscent of what it looked like under natural fire conditions, according to officials.

"Dense forests are the result of fire suppression for over 100 years which increased the potential for catastrophic wildfire in the park," the Yosemite announcement said.

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The Union Democrat
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