Rim Fire: How California's drought is helping charred lands recover

In this photo taken Thursday, Sept. 25, 2013  A small plant begins to grow among trees scorched by the Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest, near Tuolumne City, Calif.  Just three weeks after flames of the Rim Fire consumed an estimated 30,000 acres of forest land, nature has begun to repair itself with new plant growth.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
In this photo taken Thursday, Sept. 25, 2013 A small plant begins to grow among trees scorched by the Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest, near Tuolumne City, Calif. Just three weeks after flames of the Rim Fire consumed an estimated 30,000 acres of forest land, nature has begun to repair itself with new plant growth.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) Rich Pedroncelli/AP

California's drought has been bad news for most of the state, but it's actually been good for areas recovering from last year's Rim Fire.

The fire, one of the biggest in California history, tore through more than 400 square miles of woodlands in and around Yosemite National Park. 

With a dry winter and spring, the burned areas were spared heavy rains and mudslides, so fledgling plants have been able to take root, said Georgia Dempsey with the U.S. Forest Service's Rim Fire Recovery team.

"That helps to stabilize things more, so with each passing year the situation should improve," Dempsey said.

Related: Man charged with starting massive 2013 wildfire in Yosemite

Usually  after a major fire, seeds lying dormant in the charred soil wake up and sprout to life. Soon, they send out roots, improve the soil and create an inviting environment for other wildlife.

In wet years, Dempsey said, heavy rainstorms create massive runoff that wipes those seeds and fledgling plants out.

"Since that didn’t happen, there was a lot of seed source available for plants to come up this spring, and that did occur," she said.

Dempsey noted there was one major thunderstorm that stressed some recovering areas, but for the most part, any rain that has fallen in the past year was light.

She added that some plants like bicolored lupin, soap root, milkweed and Mariposa lilies are already well established in the recovery areas.

Dempsey said it could take up to 10 years before a lasting recovery takes hold in the area.

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