Let it burn? That's National Park Service Policy

Unless a naturally occurring fire threatens lives or structures, Yosemite and other national parks are likely to let nature run its course.
August 30, 2013

As the massive Rim fire roared out of the Stanislaus National Forest and deeper into Yosemite National Park this week, public attention rose sharply.

But the intensity of firefighting did not.That's because part of the blaze had crossed into the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, which has a more restrained approach to managing wildfires than other federal, state and local fire agencies battling the 300-square-mile blaze.

Officials estimate that it will be fully contained in two or three weeks, but it is expected to keep smoldering for weeks longer and won't be truly out for months.

Although the 4,900 firefighters here operate under a unified command, the park service has a very different firefighting philosophy from that of the forest service or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Park officials prefer to herd fires where they want them to go and allow blazes to burn out on their own. It's a science-based approach that serves the same function as off-season forest thinning and controlled burns. But those arguments often fail to stand up to public distaste for trees burning in beloved national parks.