September 27, 2011: A US Forest Service official in the Western Divide Ranger District of the Sequoia National Forest announced today that all trails and wilderness areas that were closed in response to the Lion Fire have been reopened. Trail closures in Sequoia National Park have been lifted as well. The Lion Fire burned approximately 20,500 acres in the Sequoia National Forest and Sequoia National Park.
Ignited by a lightning strike in the national forest around July 8, 2011, the fire grew steadily northward on difficult terrain through mixed conifer and brush, reaching the southernmost portion of Sequoia National Park by the end of July. Sequoia National Park can be reached in approximately 2.5 hours by car from Fresno, CA.
Primarily affected were large portions of the Golden Trout Wilderness and the southernmost border of Sequoia National Park in the vicinity of Soda Butte and Sheep Mountain. Trails to Maggie and Coyote Lakes had been closed in response to fire activity but reopened on August 26. The trail to Farewell Gap had also been closed but was reopened for hikers in mid-September.
The fire was managed for ecological purposes, meaning that it was monitored by fire crews but allowed to burn within appropriate boundaries to consume forest fuels such as downed trees and branches, brush, pine needles and forest duff that, allowed to build up, can result in devastating wildfires that burn intensely and scorch even the crowns of trees. Wildland fires are a natural part of the wilderness ecosystem and they strengthen the health of forests by preserving biodiversity and returning nutrients to the earth. Some privately owned cabins in the path of the fire in the Golden Trout Wilderness were provided fire protection.
By September 15, officials announced that the fire was approximately 95 percent contained by wilderness fire crews, but area closures west of the Little Kern River and along the Soda Spring Creek drainage remained in place. The Newlywed Trail (FS 31E13) north of Nelson Cabin in the national forest and at the southern boundary of Sequoia National Park where it enters the park near Sheep Mountain was the last to reopen.
The “Porterville Recorder” reported that the Lion Fire proved educational in some respects. The fire confirmed what was generally believed about wildland fires: when a wildland fire reaches an area in which fire has been active within approximately the last 10 years, the new fire will stop growing and even stop. If an area has experienced fire but more than 10 years have passed since that fire, a new blaze will burn with an the intensity equal to that in an area that has never burned. This information can be helpful for fire management planning.
The Lion Fire burned into two areas that had been affected by fire activity in recent years: Tamarack Fire (2006) and the White Fire (2001).
Alonzo, Denise. US Forest Service. 1839 S. Newcomb St. Porterville, CA 93257
InciWeb. Lion Fire
“The Porterville Recorder.” Sequoia National Forest learning from Lion Fire. July 27, 2011
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