Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

The Eden Fire on November 20.

Local lightning-caused fires create lingering smoke

Sarah Elliott


The Eden Fire, burning in a remote area of Sequoia National Park, grew by more than 1,000 acres in size over the past week. The fire, which was caused by lightning and discovered October 4, is now 1,430 acres, as measured by an infrared flight Tuesday night, Nov. 20. 
"Gathering information via aircraft is a safe and efficient way to manage this fire," said Andrew Cremers, incident commander. "At the same time, we constantly look at options in what other types of aircraft could be used to slow the fire's spread in certain areas with targeted water drops or retardant lines, especially if we are getting undesired fire effects."
The fire, which had only grown to five acres as of November 1, is burning southwest of Mineral King and immediately east of Case Mountain, which means the smoke from this active fire is funneling down the Salt Creek and East Fork drainages where stagnant air has trapped it in the
Kaweah canyon. A Thanksgiving storm system should create an airflow pattern conducive to dispersing the smoke, which has reached into the "Very Unhealthy" range several times this week.
In the Air Quality Index rating system with six categories based on particulate matter, Very Unhealthy is number five, ranked just below "Hazardous," and comes with the warning that "everyone should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion."
Located in and adjacent to the Eden Creek Grove of giant sequoias, the terrain is steep and rugged with no access via the ground. The fire is working its way through an area that has no modern recorded fire history, according to Michael Theune, parks' fire information officer. 
Dennison Fire
This lightning-caused fire, discovered October 13, is east of Dillonwood Grove, just inside Sequoia National Park's southernmost boundary. The fire, currently at 87 acres, is burning at an elevation of over 8,000 feet in a remote section of the park. 
Alder and Mountaineer fires
Burning farther south of Three Rivers in Giant Sequoia National Monument are two additional lightning-caused fires that have also shown significant growth.
The Alder Fire increased nearly 2,000 acres in a week. On Tuesday, Nov. 20, it had consumed 4,653 acres, up from 2,723 acres on November 13.
The Mountaineer Fire is growing at a slower pace, from 977 to 1,270 acres during that same time period.
While the smoke has been bad news for human health, the fires are imperative for forest health.  Of the top 20 largest wildfires in California, half occurred in the last decade. There are many reasons for more and larger wildfires, including drought that provides the fuel for fires and
high winds to spread them.
California forests contain 130 million dead trees, many killed by bark beetles and the prolonged drought. The forests are ripe to burn, whether by the watchful but hands-off approach of local federal agencies or via a fast-moving, destructive wildfire at the wrong time of year.
These wildfires will get worse before they get better, according to the California Natural Resources Agency and by those who have experienced these massive urban-wildland interface fires first-hand in recent years. A report released in August 2018 concluded that global warming of up to eight degrees by 2100 will lead to more extreme weather and wildfires in the state.
For fire information, go to www.inciweb.gov and search for the fire by name.