The Rim Fire--close up

posted Oct 1, 2013, 11:34 AM by Paul Wagner
We're back from a short backpacking trip to Yosemite (we'll post a Trip Report in the future) but we thought you might be interested in seeing just exactly what the damage from the Rim Fire looks like as you drive by some of the burn area on Highway 120 through  Big Oak Flat and into Yosemite.
The good news?  There are huge parts of this fire that are described as having  burned---and yet still have plenty of green trees in place.  The fire in these areas was obviously not so hot, and burned only the understory of the forest.  In fact, the larger trees seemed to do better, probably because their lower branches had long since fallen away, and there was little to catch fire at that lower level.  As long as the bark and cambium layer wasn't damaged, those trees are fine.
The first photo shows an overview of the section of the fire that burned in Yosemite...with both green trees and burn damage.
And Highway 120, at forty feet wide or so, was a pretty good firebreak in a lot of areas.  You can see where the fire burned the understory on one side of the highway, but the fire crews were able to keep it from crossing into the forest on the other side of the road.  Nice work. 
Just as impressive were the areas where the fire DID jump that highway--and continued on for many acres. 
There are also some areas where the only thing that didn't burn is the building along the road---as the fire burned the entire forest right up to the edge of the buildings.
But there are also scenes of real devastation--whole sections of the forest that are now just burnt sticks.  They are clearly trying to log some of these areas right now, so that the fire danger doesn't get even worse...and some of that lumber can be salvaged.  But other areas are just burnt to a crisp.  The trees are all dead, the foliage is burnt off, and the ground is black and white ashes. 
It's hard to imagine these areas making a quick comeback, and we've all hiked through enough burned areas to know that ten years from now, many of these black stumps will still be the tallest things in this part of the forest. 
We were particularly saddened by this fire damage up the side of one of Yosemite's distinctive granite domes.  Those trees, which took centuries to grow that big, will never come back in our lifetime. The first clearly shot right up the side of the dome, and burned everything until it ran out of fuel.
And as a final note, the view from the Rim of the World is pretty desolate.  Here there was as much brush as trees, and it all went up in smoke.  Most of what you can see from this overlook is black soil--and only a few tiny spots where something green might still be living. 
And yes, there are still a few tiny spots in the middle of this devastation where there is something green still alive. 
And feeling very lonely.