For outdoor enthusiasts everywhere, positive news about the containment of the massive Rim Fire that swept Yosemite National Park for weeks in August—demanding the presence of more than 4,000 firefighters and the presence of an unmanned drone aircraft to battle flames—was welcomed.
The fires, which by late August had caused $39 million in damages, raged across more than 192,466 acres—a swath of acreage that would eclipse the city of Chicago. Officials say that the fires should be contained by the mid-September, but the last of the fires might not be out until winter, experts say.
Watch a timelapse video of the fires here:
So, how long will it take that area to regenerate—for flora and fauna to begin and growing and thriving again?
If past fires are any indicator, it could be anywhere from days to decades, depending on the flora and fauna in question. Already, the Rim Fire is the sixth-largest fire in California's history. The largest one—the Cedar Fire of October 2003—covered more than 273,000 acres.
After a high-intensity forest fire, shrubs and grasses will be among the first things to grow back, according to a Colorado State Forest Service report. "Trees that are severely damaged by fire but not killed immediately usually die within 2 years," the report says. Likewise, higher-intensity fires such as this one may diminish soil fertility for up to 5 years after the fire.
Next, trees will begin to regenerate years later, according the U.S. Forest Service.
In total, a forest will take about 20 years to regenerate after a high-intensity forest fire.
Sequoias—if broached by the fire—would take 2,000 to 3,000 years to regrow.
As for when wildlife moves back into an area after a wildfire, "it could be a matter of days or years," according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Birds that eat insects, such as woodpeckers, would be among the first to move back into to the burned area, as insects inhabit the dead trees. Additionally, "small mammals may den in the cavities of fire-damaged trees"—and many return before the smoke diminishes.
Rabbits, raccoons and skunks rebound fast after a forest fire, as well, according to data tracked by The San Diego Wildfire Education Project.
The Cedar Fire of October 2003 killed 10-20 percent of the deer population across San Diego county, but deer are now at are pre-fire levels.