Las Vegas Review-Journal
Calif. firefighters scramble to protect giant sequoia groves
THREE RIVERS, Calif. — Hot, dry weather on Sunday added to the challenges facing California firefighters who are battling to keep flames from driving further into a grove of ancient sequoias, where the base of the world’s tallest tree has been wrapped in protective foil.
Fire officials warned that stronger winds were also contributing to “critical fire conditions” in the area of the KNP Complex, two lightning-sparked blazes that merged on the western side of Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada.
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning through Sunday, saying gusts and lower humidity could create conditions for rapid wildfire spread.
The fires forced the evacuation of the park last week, along with parts of Three Rivers, a foothill community of about 2,500 people. Crews have been bulldozing a line between the fire and the community.
More than 34 square miles of forest land have been blackened.
The National Park Service said Friday that flames had reached the westernmost tip of the Giant Forest, where it scorched a grouping of sequoias known as the “Four Guardsmen” that mark the entrance to the grove of 2,000 sequoias.
Firefighters wrapped the base of the General Sherman Tree, along with other trees in the Giant Forest, in a type of aluminum that can withstand high heat. It wasn’t immediately known how the Four Guardsmen, which received the same treatment, fared, fire spokeswoman Katy Hooper said Saturday.
The General Sherman Tree is the largest in the world by volume, at 52,508 cubic feet, according to the National Park Service. It towers
275 feet high and has a circumference of 103 feet at ground level.
Giant sequoias are adapted to fire, which can help them thrive by releasing seeds from their cones and creating clearings that allow young sequoias to grow. But the extraordinary intensity of fires can overwhelm the trees.