Firefighters have wrapped the base of the world’s largest tree in a fire-resistant blanket as part of an effort to save a famous grove of giant old-growth sequoias from wildfires burning in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada.
Fire spokeswoman Rebecca Patterson said the giant General Sherman Tree, some other sequoias, the Giant Forest Museum and other buildings in Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest were wrapped to protect against the potential for intense fires.
Aluminum wrapping can withstand intense heat for short periods. Federal officials said they have used the material for many years throughout the US West to protect sensitive structures from flames. Near Lake Tahoe, some homes that were wrapped in protective material survived recent wildfires, while others nearby were destroyed.
Fire officials said the Colony Fire, one of two burnings in Sequoia National Park and named after the area from which it began, was expected to reach the Giant Forest, a grove of 2,000 sequoias, firefighters said. officials said.
Fire spokeswoman Katy Hooper said, however, that the fire did not grow much on Thursday as a layer of smoke reduced its spread early in the morning.
Thousands of sequoias were killed, some high-rise and thousands of years old, in fires that followed wildfires in the region last year.
According to the National Park Service, the General Sherman Tree is the largest in the world by volume at 52,508 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters). It is 275 feet (84 m) high and has a circumference of 103 feet (31 m) at ground level.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Superintendent Clay Jordan stressed the importance of protecting massive trees from high-intensity fires during a briefing for firefighters.
The 50-year history of using prescribed burns—fires aimed at removing other types of trees and vegetation that would otherwise feed wildfires—is vast by reducing the impact on the park’s sequoia trees until the flames reach the flames. The trees were expected to help them survive. .
“The strong fire history of scheduled fires in that area is cause for optimism,” Patterson said. “Hopefully, the Giant Forest will emerge from this unheard of.”
Giant sequoias are adapted for fire, which can help them thrive by releasing seeds from their cones and creating clearings that allow young sequoias to develop. But the extraordinary intensity of fires – driven by climate change – can drown trees.
This happened last year when the Castle Fire caused an estimated 7,500 to 10,600 large sequoias, according to the National Park Service.
Heat waves associated with a historic drought and climate change have made it harder to fight wildfires in the American West. Scientists say climate change has made the region hotter and drier over the past 30 years and will make the weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
A national inter-agency fire management team commanded efforts to fight the 11.5-square-mile (30-sq-kilometer) Paradise Fire and the 3-square-mile (8-sq-kilometer) Colony fire, which were the largest of the Grove’s. was close. . Operations were carried out to burn vegetation and other fuels that fueled the flames in that area.
Fires forced evacuations of the park this week, and parts of downtown Three Rivers outside the main entrance were evacuated.
To the south, more than 6 square miles (15 square kilometers) of fire broke out overnight in the Tule River Indian Reservation and Giant Sequoia National Monument, and the crew had no control over it, a statement from the Sequoia National Forest said. was not.
The Windy Fire, also triggered by lightning, burned part of the Peron Sequoia Grove in the national monument, and threatened other trees.
“Due to the inaccessible terrain, a preliminary assessment of the fire’s impact on the giant sequoia trees within the grove will be difficult and may take a few days to complete,” the statement said.
The fire led the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office to warn the communities of Ponderosa, Quaking Aspen, Johnsondale and Camp Whitsett, a Boy Scouts camp, to be prepared to evacuate if necessary.
Hundreds of homes have been destroyed by fires in California, covering about 3,550 square miles (9,195 square kilometers).
The crew had limited access to the Colony Fire and the extreme slope of the area around the Paradise Fire prevented it completely, requiring extensive aerial water and flame-retardant drops on both fires. Both the fires were being managed collectively as the KNP Complex.
Antczak reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press reporter Brian Meley contributed from Los Angeles.