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Stanislaus National Forest plans fire operations on Groveland Ranger District beginning Sept. 3

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avatar Stanislaus National Forest plans fire operations on Groveland Ranger District beginning Sept. 3
September 03, 2019 04:14PM
SONORA, Calif. — The Stanislaus National Forest plans to secure the area around the Rosasco Fire by reducing fuels near the underground fire on Groveland Ranger District.

An area about 700 acres in size will be burned between Sept. 3 and Sept. 12, according to Jim Junette, Groveland District ranger. The primary purpose of this action is to secure the area around where the Rosasco Fire burns. “This area is within the Rim Fire footprint, which means there are a lot of standing dead trees and snags. We are removing fuels and the threat they pose so the underground fire can’t escape onto the landscape.”

Firefighters will conduct firing operations in the evening to take advantage of cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity. While it is in a remote section of the forest, the fire may be visible at night from Highway 120. Junette plans to have forest employees familiar with the operation available to answer questions in areas where the fire will be visible.

Although it might appear to residents that this is a prescribed fire, Junette explained that an existing fire cannot be a prescribed burn. “A prescribed burn means there is no fire on the landscape before we lay down a fire line. This is defined as a wildfire, although one that’s burning underground.”

The reasons for this operation are the same as with a prescribed fire: firefighter safety and resource protection.

The Rosasco Fire has been burning underground for at least five years in a remote area of the forest west of Cherry Lake and about 12 miles southeast of Twain Harte. “We know the fire has been burning since at least 2014, but we don’t know how it started,” Junette said. “Firefighters can’t examine what fuels are burning because the ground near where the fire is burning is too dangerous for them to take a look.”

The fire has escaped above ground a couple of times since it was discovered. In 2014 it burned nearly eight acres before being extinguished above ground; in 2015 it burned nearly four acres before it was put out.

Although the cause is unknown, Junette said the burning materials may be from an old railroad site. “Our records show this area was near part of the old Westside Railway, which went out of business in the 1960s.”
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