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Sierra Nevada

Wildfires have always been a part of the Central California landscape. But in recent years blazes like the Detwiler Fire (2017) and the Erskine Fire (2016) have been different. In each case, veteran firefighters who have been on wildland blazes for decades say they saw the fires demonstrating "extreme" behavior like they haven't seen before. They burned hotter, faster, and didn't die down at night as fires typically do. 

NOAASatellites YouTube

While crews fought to keep the Detwiler Fire in California’s Central Valley from reaching the historic gold rush town of Mariposa, a separate fire crew was watching the blaze from an entirely different angle - space.

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

UPDATE: Evacuation orders remain in place for residents on Greeley Hill Road and Dogtown Road near Coulterville.

Original post:
Residents of Mariposa County are beginning to return home as the Detwiler Fire slowly dies down. Cal Fire is getting control of the blaze but not before it burned more than 76,000 acres.

Monday is the first day some are learning if their homes survived the blaze.

Linda Scoggin’s home is the only one left standing on a remote road in Mt. Bullion north of Mariposa but that doesn’t mean everything survived.

Alicia Embrey / Sequoia National Forest

In 2015 the Rough Fire burned more than 150,000 acres in the mountains east of Fresno. The blaze burned hot and fast threatening Hume Lake Christian Camps in Sequoia National Forest. But while most of the area is starting to recover Boyden Cavern has yet to reopen. But that could soon change.

UC Merced

A new study out of UC Merced finds that meadows in the Sierra Nevada are slowly disappearing.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Wilderness areas are known for isolated beauty and the feeling of peace experienced there. There are no cars, few roads and only horseman, horses and hikers can enter them. But that could soon change if a bill that’s now in congress becomes law.

When Craig Bowden isn’t teaching eighth graders language arts he’s out riding his mountain bike. Today, he’s giving me a lesson on bike riding at Woodward Park in north Fresno.  

“When you’re taking a corner you typically want to have your outside foot down, so the pressures on the outside,” Bowden says as we ride down a hill.

Tioga Pass Resort

Update: 7/6/17
The operators of the Tioga Pass Resort confirmed earlier this week that they will not open this year due to structural damage to the historic lodge. The following was posted on the lodge's Facebook page on July 3:

Well, we can now call it official: TPR will not operate for the 2017 season. It's simply not feasible, even if you set the lodge issues aside.

We have begun to cancel and refund reservations. Please be a patient, as this may take several days to complete.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Spring is here and it’s the perfect time to get outdoors. There are, of course, lots of fun things to do outside this time of year, but one sport is attracting locals specifically to rock faces everywhere.

NASA/Friant Water Authority

A new way to measure the snowpack from the sky is getting some positive results. FM89's Ezra David Romero reports officials hope new technology can reduce the risk of downstream flooding.

 

At the start of the year NASA crews began flying over the San Joaquin River watershed to measure the snowpack using laser pulses. This creates a way more accurate estimate of how much snow is the mountains than traditional snow surveying does.

 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

All of the recent rain and snow in California is good news for farms and cities. The runoff flowing from the Sierra Nevada is so strong this year that’s it's moving huge boulders and tons of earth down rivers. That means gold is on the move as well and as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports that has gold prospectors on alert.

 

Larry Riggs and his friends are hunting on a piece of private property near Oakhurst. There are no guns or fishing poles present. Just shovels, plastic bowls and buckets.

They’re panning for gold.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

After five years of drought there’s so much snow in the Sierra Nevada that state water officials are preparing for a massive runoff year. But the traditional way of calculating the snowpack has a huge margin of error and as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports a new way to measure it could greatly decrease that inconsistency.  

Every winter and spring a network of snow surveyors manually tally how much snow is in the Sierra Nevada. They do this by measuring snow depth in the same spots every year.

Mike McMillan / US Forest Service

A new study about how wildfires are started in the US found that people are responsible for more fires than lightning. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

 

Of the 1.5 million fires the study looked at from 1992 to 2012 84% were started by people. University of Massachusetts at Amherst researcher Bethany Bradley says that’s helped tripled the length of fire season in the US, and grow the affected area by seven times. She says fires caused by lightning usually happen in the late summer.

 

Westlands Water District website

The federal Bureau of Reclamation announced Tuesday how much water water districts across California should expect to receive this year. Eastside growers in the Friant Division within Fresno County should receive a 100 percent allocation. Ryan Jacobsen is the CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

 

Ezra David Romero

Let's face it. America loves giant sequoia trees. Native Americans believe they hold spiritual value, early settlers tried to exploit the trees and today the trees adorn the National Park Service's badge. 

In a new book called "King Sequoia: The Tree That Inspired a Nation, Created Our National Park System, and Changed the Way We Think about Nature" author William C. Tweed weaves together a narrative of human contact with the big trees. He outlines who tried to exploit them and eventually what it took to protect them. 

Ezra David Romero

Late this summer endangered frogs and threatened toads that call the Sierra Nevada home were given 1.8 million acres of protected habitat. That’s a good thing for the amphibians, but as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports private landowners and ranchers aren’t so sure it will help them.  

Yosemite National Park Biologist Rob Grasso and his crew of volunteers are in a hurry. They’re counting tadpoles from a pond and plopping them into five gallon orange coolers. These tadpoles will end up in a lake high up in the backcountry.

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