Fire Restrictions Still in Place for Yosemite National Park

October 11, 2018

It has been a dangerous, and deadly, year of fires inside Yosemite National Park, and restrictions continue to be in place.

The Superintendent of Yosemite, in his most recent notice during late summer 2018, notes that wood and charcoal fires (including wood-burning stoves) are prohibited within the Yosemite Wilderness, including the High Sierra Camps, at all elevations.

Tunnel View in Yosemite Valley, filled with smoke from wildfires

Portable stoves using pressurized gas, liquid fuel or propane are permitted.

Smoking is prohibited, except within an enclosed vehicle, a building in which smoking is allowed, designated campgrounds, designated picnic areas, paved developed areas, or designated smoking areas.

Campfires and cooking fires may still be used in designated campgrounds, designated picnic areas, commercial lodging and residential areas in developed portions of the park in accordance with park regulations.

Fires in designated camping spots are allowed, but restrictions are in place for the rest of the park.

“Yosemite National Park is experiencing extreme fire danger along with continued hot and dry weather patterns,” the Park report noted. “Due to the current and predicted fire conditions and fire behavior the Superintendent of Yosemite National Park is implementing Stage 2 Fire Restrictions until further notice.”

Stage 2 restrictions apply park-wide, regardless of elevation, including High Sierra Camps and Little Yosemite Valley (but not to designated campgrounds and picnic areas in the frontcountry).

As of September 27, the National Park Service reports “there are multiple fires burning in Yosemite National Park’s wilderness.” They include:

Indian Fire

The active 100-plus acre, lightning-caused blaze was discovered September 4 near Porcupine Flat Camp Ground, in Yosemite’s Wilderness.

Porcupine Flat

Rancheria Fire

The active lightning-caused blaze was discovered September 8 on the north end of Rancheria Mountain, in Yosemite’s Wilderness.

Rancheria Mountain can be seen snow-capped in the background

Unicorn Fire

Also lightning-caused, this blaze is at 9,500 feet in elevation, and smoke may be visible from Tuolumne Meadows.

Tuolumne Meadows

Two other fires at last report were less than an acre in size “with low spread potential,” and are being monitored.

The Los Angeles Times reported October 6 that the Ferguson fire that had previously forced the closure of Yosemite Valley over the summer was caused by a car, investigators say. Superheated pieces of a catalytic converter are believed to have ignited roadside vegetation on Highway 140, along the Merced River, one of just a few paths that bring motorists from California cities to Yosemite National Park, according to the report.

The fire grew to nearly 97,000 acres, an area three times the size of San Francisco.

Smoke from the Ferguson Fire fills Yosemite Valley

The fire, according to the Times report, also occurred during an extraordinarily hot month. In the nearby San Joaquin Valley, Fresno recorded its warmest July on record. From July 6 through August 4, Fresno recorded 30 straight days where temperatures reached or exceeded 100 degrees — the longest continuous stretch on record.

Two men fighting the Ferguson fire died.

The Ferguson fire was declared 100 percent contained on August 22.

The dangerous wildfire trends in the U.S. will likely continue, according to researchers. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in July 2018 concluded that the effects of global warming on temperature, precipitation levels, and soil moisture are turning many U.S. forests “into kindling during wildfire season.”

The famous Bridalveil Falls choked by smoke

“Because temperatures and precipitation levels are projected to alter further over the course of the 21st century, the overall potential for wildfires in the western United States is projected to increase,” the organization wrote.

The UCS is a science network that collaborates with more than 20,000 scientists and technical experts across the country, including physicists, ecologists, engineers, public health professionals, economists and energy analysts. The Union turns 50 years old next year, since the non-profit’s founding at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

At nearly 1,200 square miles overall in the High Sierra, Yosemite on average sees about 4 million visitors annually. National Geographic reports that all U.S. national parks had 331 million visitors in 2017, and Yosemite is among the most popular.