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Lightning sparks fire in Yosemite National Park

The fire south of Yosemite Valley is being monitored but not suppressed


Mountain weather spawned isolated thunderstorms and lightning at times in the past week over the Central Sierra Nevada, and a lightning strike has sparked the first significant fire so far this summer in Yosemite National Park.

The Lakes Fire is in the Chilnualna Lakes area, south of Yosemite Valley, northeast of Wawona and Fish Camp on Highway 41, park fire information specialist Nancy Phillipe said Monday.

Dispatch received reports of smoke in that area on Thursday. Fire personnel hiked in, and they found a confirmed lightning strike tree and a 3.2-acre surface fire, Phillipe said.

The fire is about 8,000 feet elevation in Mariposa County near the Madera County border.

Personnel at the scene said the fire was “smoldering and creeping in brush, timber and duff, with moderate spread potential,” Phillipe said. It’s burning about one-fifth of a mile from the Chilnualna Lakes Trail. There are no immediate threats to the area or the hiking trail.

The fire is being monitored but not suppressed, Phillipe said.

Lightning strike fires are a natural occurrence and play a vital role in shaping the fire-dependent ecosystem in Yosemite, she said. Each year, lightning causes multiple fires in Yosemite’s wilderness.

“By managing these fires for resource benefit, as opposed to suppressing them, we can ensure a healthier, more diverse and natural forest where future fires will burn with less intensity,” Phillipe said.

The Lakes Fire was the only active fire burning in Yosemite, Phillipe said.

A structure fire was reported over the July 4 weekend at an Aramark warehouse in Yosemite Village. Lisa Cesaro, marketing manager for Aramark and Yosemite Hospitality, said the fire was extinguished quickly. There were no injuries, and it caused minimal damage.