Interacting effects of multiple ecological drivers can have dramatic consequences for species recruitment and community assembly not evident from individual effects. To understand how post-fire conifer recruitment varies with interacting abiotic and biotic contingencies, I established an experiment in the Sierra Nevada, California. Working within the King Fire burned area, I crossed a manipulation of snowpack with a removal of surrounding shrubs, which may serve as competitors or facilitators of tree seedlings. I seeded two conifer species, Pinus ponderosa and Abies concolor, within these plots in two consecutive years, one relatively normal and the other with an unusually wet winter and hot summer, and tracked the survival and growth of these seedlings for multiple years. Overall, my results demonstrate that the competitive effect of shrubs on tree seedlings, which is often assumed to be pervasive in this system, is in reality highly context-dependent.