US Forest Service officials have announced that a small wildfire was discovered in the Golden Trout Wilderness area of the Sequoia National Forest on January 14, 2014. Wildfires are rare in the Sierra Nevada in January because high elevations are usually covered in snow at this time of year. The Golden Trout Wilderness is a 300,000-acre wilderness area at the southern border of Sequoia National Park.
According to the USFS press release, the Soda Fire is burning near Clicks Creek, which is approximately 10 miles northeast of Camp Nelson and one mile west of Gray Meadow. According to a tweet from USFS Fire-California (@R5_Fire_News), the fire is remote and poses little threat but is burning around patches of snow. Smoke is visible from the fire, which is spreading at what fire officials characterize as a slow to moderate rate.
The fire is burning in shrubs, needle-cast, and dead-and-down materials in terrain that rises from approximately 6300 feet to nearby peaks of 7846 and 8093 feet. USFS fire officials are using aircraft to monitor the fire and determine management strategies. Smoke is expected to settle into wilderness valleys in the late evenings and early morning but will lift from the Little Kern Drainage and be pushed northeast during the warmer part of the days that follow.
Drought conditions throughout California this winter have not spared the Sierra, and unseasonably low levels of moisture have increased the risk of wildfire during months usually considered post-fire season. According to ABC30 Action News in Fresno, USFS officials are gearing up for what may be the first full-year fire season. If these dry conditions continue, Fresno backpackers may feel the effects in the coming season both because of the increased risk of wildfire and because water sources such as creeks, streams and seeps may be running lower than usual and drying out earlier.
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