Golden Staters know that late summer and autumn can be prime time for the year’s best weather. In Yosemite, traffic and trails thin out, nights turn cool, and fall’s golden equinox is on. This glorious time of year also comes with an asterisk: it’s peak wildfire season in mountain communities. Warm, dry days mixed with extreme weather events can create conditions where any spark at the wrong time and place can ignite a dangerous wildfire in California.
The devastation of recent wildfires in the Yosemite Mariposa region is still very much top of mind here. And yet, historically fire is an integral part of forest ecosystems—and has been for millions of years. Naturally occurring fires can thin forests, open the canopy and allow sunlight through while reducing the hazardous accumulation of dry and dead brush and invasive plant species. Ultimately, fire encourages the germination and regrowth of plants, shrubs and trees.
2017’s Detwiler Fire (pictured) burned more than 81,000 acres, destroyed 63 homes and forced a mandatory evacuation of the town of Mariposa. The incident, which was started by a firearm discharge, could have been easily avoided.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, while severe weather and lightning is always a natural factor to consider, people start 85% of wildfires in the United States. Campfires and cars are top of the list. Here are preventative measures to maximize safety and minimize wildfire risk when traveling in the Yosemite Mariposa region during fire season.
Campfires are one of the best parts of camping, but the relaxing crackle of the fire can quickly become disastrous if proper care isn’t taken.
Campfires are the single leading cause of wildfires. Follow these simple safety precautions when camping:
2018’s Ferguson Fire, burnt more than 96,000 acres, caused the death of two firefighters and forced a closure to Yosemite National Park. The cause was later determined to be from a vehicle’s faulty catalytic converter.
Vehicles cause many of the wildfires sparked along National Park and National Forest roadways. Nearly all roadside fire starts can be prevented by following basic safety rules. With these preventative measures, motorists can create “one less spark, and one less wildfire,” the mindful mantra of CAL FIRE.
Borne from the global pandemic but with evergreen relevance, Visit California’s Responsible Travel Code encourages travelers to follow a simple, seven-step “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” pledge. With “respect” to wildfire season, P may be our favorite:
Preserve California. I will protect and nurture the Golden State’s pristine outdoor spaces and cultural icons, by maintaining a light footprint at every turn and paying special attention to delicate ecosystems.
Mariposa County joins Visit California in encouraging visitors to “Feel free to traipse, travel and follow your joy” while exploring Yosemite with a fire safety perspective. For more information on wildfire preparedness, visit www.PreventWildfireCA.org and https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prevent-wildfire/.
Cross country skiing on winter’s blanket of snow is one of the best ways to explore the Yosemite high country during the winter. Explore what’s possible.
Yosemite National Park and Mariposa County set the stage for epic family getaways, with the more children, parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents tagging along the merrier.
Discover things to do in Yosemite in winter with this handy build-your-own itinerary guide. From snowshoeing to wine-tasting, the Yosemite Mariposa County area has you covered.