Fire spreading at alpine elevations

This was a pretty interesting fire. I've often seen small areas of alpine trees (Foxtail, Whitebark etc) scarred by fire. But when you look at the ground fuel, you wonder how a fire is carried tree to tree. Alpine trees often grow in clumps and are surrounded by sand or rock. Fires usually spread along the ground and then burn into a bunch of trees, where it burns hotter. With no ground fuels, how do you get extensive areas burned?

Here, some hikers probably started an accidental fire either by burning toilet paper or perhaps an illegal campfire (not allowed above 10,000 feet). It looks like it burned into some rotting log; caught flame in a stand of Foxtail and years worth of dead branches and pine needles at the base of that clump. The wind then blasted it uphill to other clumps with similar amounts of dead needles and branches. When I got there, the wind was still whipping the flames along and spreading rapidly clump to clump. When the wind died down, the spread mostly stopped.

If the wind hadn't stopped, it likely would have burned into a fairly narrow gulley that a major trail comes down. If this were a lightening caused fire, the Park Service would likely have let it burn. Such fires are natural. However, because it was human caused and had the potential to close a major trail, the decision was to send a crew in and put it out, which took two days.

Publicado por gdurkee gdurkee, 12 de febrero de 2009


Fotos / Sonidos




Agosto 22, 2008


Wildfire in grove of Foxtail Pine, near Bullfrog Lake, Kings Canyon National Park, CA. Continuous ground fuel was sparse -- mostly dirt and gravel. Fire spread by crowning and sparks to next clump of fuel below live trees. Probably started by camper burning toilet paper.


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