I ventured into the Rim Fire, where access is (still) very limited, and found a variety of conditions. Along Evergreen Road, on the way into the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite National Park, I first saw an area that had a prescribed burn accomplished, a few years ago. A “windshield survey” of that saw that there were plenty of trees surviving. I wasn’t surprised to see scattered mortality. It remains to be seen how many of these green trees already have bark beetles in them. In fact, I’m sure that some trees have changed color since I was there, in late April.
Farther up the road, near the historic Camp Mather, I saw this managed area and wondered why it didn’t survive very well. You can see that understory trees were cut, reducing the ladder fuels. Farther up the gentle slope there appears to be some survivors. All of the trees in this picture are likely candidates for bark beetles, and the green ones can support more than one generation. We are already seeing accelerated bark beetle mortality outside of the fire’s perimeter.
I scanned around, looking for a reason why the stand had so much mortality. Looking across the road, down the hill, I saw the reason why. It is pretty clear that this stand hadn’t seen any management, and the hot wind from the fire pushed the crown fire across the road. Some of those trees were simply just “cooked” by the hot gases, blowing through their crowns. While I have seen these fire-resilient pines sprout some buds the next spring, few of them survive through the next summer, for multiple reasons.
With over 250,000 acres burned, of course there will be a varied mosaic, with lots of examples of things we like to talk about, no matter what your point of view is. I will post more examples of what I saw in future posts.