California’s creek fire invades national parks

Yosemite National Park on June 2018. Sangeetha Koomar/Lariat

“Both sides of the San Joaquin River near Mammoth Pool and the communities of Shaver Lake, Big Creek and Huntington Lake. Hwy 168 is closed.” The Yosemite National Park website reported regarding the extent of the fire.

As the heat rose on Sept. 6, so did the fires. Campers nearby Yosemite, Bobcat, or even Sequoia, had to be rescued by helicopters or were stuck in traffic to flee. Additionally, the wildlife had to desert their homes and were forced to find shelter in suburban communities while the flora was left to burn.

Due to strong winds the fires have grown and are flourishing in all extreme conditions threatening communities. Animals ranging from mice to bears are being forced to find shelter in these neighboring towns and suburbs. With nearby suburbs and neighborhoods dubbed as the fire-free haven for fauna, wild animals are continuously rescued by animal rescue teams for both the animals and people’s safety.

“It’s all frightening really, we can’t control where a bear and racoon go, they want to escape the fire even if it means going to suburbs,” said Kim Gardner, Media representative of Performing Animal Welfare Society in California. “We get hundreds of calls and are rescuing hundreds of animals since Sep. 6, our problem is with so much of nature destroyed by these fires, I am unsure about where we would release the frightened creatures.”

As the number of animals in need of aid increased, so did the number of rescuers needing to be trained and hired. Many of California’s animal rescues had no choice but to start training for off-site rescues for volunteers who had barely even had a day’s worth of experience.

“I had started maybe a couple months ago? I was trained for both offsite and onsite, but as soon as the heat wave spiked from a couple weeks ago, everyone mentally prepared themselves,” said Anette Chung, a volunteer for the North Valley Animal Disaster Group of California. “I remember being told that I had to train a couple newbies, it was intimidating but we needed all the hands we could get, nobody wants to see a baby bear on their sidewalk. The fires are rising and spreading, so it is only for the safety of the animals and people that we increase our volunteer numbers even if it means that newbies are rescuing and handling as well.”

The fire’s surge has made its way into many national parks and many famous trees had to pay the price. It isn’t easy for many campers and locals to see their state’s historical trees burnt down and though many of the trees are known to survive fires, the events sparked great concern for many.

“We started on the road on September 5th, and once we reached Yosemite, you could see the smoke from the distant fires no matter where you stood,” said Nandita Joshi, a recent camper who traveled to Yosemite but left on Sept. 6th. “You could see the sky shift from blue to gray, what’s worse is seeing so many sequoias pay the price, people don’t realize it but unlike redwoods, if sequoias and other tree species are hit by a fire, there is a little to no chance of regrowth.”

Yosemite National Park also issued a response online in regards to the dangers of the fires:

“Southern portion of Yosemite under a fire advisory; Mariposa Grove closing on September 6 at 7 pm.” said Yosemite National Park as a warning online in regards to the dangers of the fires
Many campers and the public in the park are ordered to shelter in place, but Yosemite has made it known on their website that the California Army National Guard has safely evacuated and attended to 207 people. Notably, the fires are not decreasing and it is only a matter of days before drastic precautionary measures are taken and the park is closed as a whole.