Los Angeles Times

Thousands more acres burn in Sequoia National Park

KNP Complex has grown fivefold from Monday to Tuesday

- By Lila Seidman

A pair of lightnings­parked fires raging in Sequoia National Park more than quintupled in 24 hours, burning ever closer to groves of the largest trees on Earth and forcing the evacuation­s of park employees and nearby residents.

The Paradise and Colony fires — collective­ly called the KNP Complex — exploded to 5,861 acres by Tuesday afternoon, a leap of more than 4,800 acres from the day prior. Flames from the blaze, which has no containmen­t, were lapping a little bit closer to dense areas of towering giant sequoia trees, according to Mark Ruggiero, a spokespers­on for the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

An inversion layer over the fire lifted, causing it to pick up and tear through intense fuels, including drought-stricken trees further destroyed by bark beetles, and into drainage areas in the rugged terrain, said Ruggiero, who added that “the fire has intensifie­d tremendous­ly.”

As the Paradise fire — now 4,821 acres — made a downhill run, crossing the middle fork of the Kaweah River and the Generals Highway, employees were evacuated Tuesday from the Ash Mountain Headquarte­rs Complex and nearby housing areas, including the community of Sycamore within the park, officials said.

Parts of the picturesqu­e foothills community of Three Rivers were also under evacuation orders, the Tulare County Sheriff ’s Office said on Facebook. The Paradise fire is burning about three to four miles east, Ruggiero said.

Evacuation orders are in place for the Silver City and Cabin Cove area on Mineral King Road, while other areas of Three Rivers are under evacuation warnings. There were 110 structures in the mandatory evacuation zone and 1,189 in areas under evacuation warnings, officials said at a community meeting Tuesday evening in Three Rivers.

Officials stressed that although Three Rivers was not under a mandatory evacuation order, residents should stay alert for updates from authoritie­s.

Lt. Gary Marks, of the Tulare County Sheriff ’s Office, said deputies planned to knock on as many doors as possible in the evacuation warning zone to collect names and telephone numbers.

“This is a beautiful community but it’s only got one way in, one way out, and that’s [State Route] 198,” Marks said.

Flames were lapping about a mile from the famed Giant Forest, the largest concentrat­ion of towering giant sequoias in the park and home to the 275-foot General Sherman tree — considered the world’s largest tree by volume, Ruggiero said.

The fires were nearer to the grove, but not yet an “imminent threat,” he said.

The fires, which began Thursday as storms rolled into the southern Sierra Nevada region, have been upgraded to a “type one” incident management category, which Ruggiero said is the highest level, bringing more resources to the blaze.

Nearby, a separate blaze — the Windy fire, which was burning to the south in the adjoining Sequoia National Forest — had moved into a grove of the enormous trees as it continued to grow at a moderate rate. By Tuesday morning, that blaze, which ignited Thursday in the Tule River Indian Reservatio­n before pushing into the forest, had seared 1,454 acres with no containmen­t, fire officials said.

The Windy fire has not spurred any evacuation­s or warnings, but officials were monitoring it as it burned in the vicinity of Camp Nelson, Ponderosa and Johnsondal­e, said Thanh Nguyen, a public informatio­n officer on the fire.

With more than 15 large wildfires burning across the statem Nguyen said it’s been hard to get the necessary resources to fight all of the fires.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States