Sierra Nevada finally begins to see life return a year after devastating wildfire
A wildfire in the California wilderness has come to an end, and what’s left behind is a blackened landscape of skeletal pines and leafless oaks, scorched meadows and ashen stumps where saplings once stood.
CA WILDFIRE TEMPORARILY TRAPS 4TH OF JULY TRAVELERSTiny clusters of white and purple wildflowers stand out against denuded pines, many stripped of bark in the fire.
Green shoots of horsetail as thin as yarn strands break from the ground below a tree’s barren branches.
Some of the towering trees on the hillside are dead, others only singed and can recover.
The first plants to reappear after a burn typically have grown more resistant over time to the flames.
But it can be five years before the ground cover returns to what it was before the blaze.
One stand of pinyon pines was heavily damaged – needles burned off the branches, their trunks torched black – and will not come back.
"The conifer trees don’t come back very quickly," Ellsworth said, referring to certain pines and other trees that bear cones.
Firefighters said they used minimum-impact techniques to fight the blaze because "natural fire plays an important role in maintaining the landscape within these areas."
Some species only flower after a wildfire.
Whitney, at 14,505 feet (4,421 meters) the highest mountain the contiguous United States — is home to Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, an endangered species, and to the whitebark pine, an endangered species candidate.
If a hotter, drier climate is unsuitable for those trees to come back, "they won’t recover," she added.