California wildfires reach Giant Forest; fate of sequoias unknown - GulfToday

California wildfires reach Giant Forest; fate of sequoias unknown


Flames lick up a tree in Sequoia National Forest, California. AP

Gulf Today Report

Flames on Sunday reached a grove of sequoia trees in California as firefighters battled to keep fire from driving further into another grove, where the base of the world’s largest tree has been wrapped in protective foil.

A group of landmark giant sequoias has so far been spared by a blaze sweeping through a California national park, authorities said on Sunday.


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Fire officials warned that hot, dry weather and stronger winds were 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 fire as of Friday had not impacted the General Sherman, park officials said on Saturday. It stands about 2.5 miles (4 km) northeast of the Guardsmen.

Fire-resistant wrap covers a bridge of Sequoia National Forest, California, on Sunday. AP

The so-called KNP Complex fire, which was ignited by lightning earlier this month, reached the western edge of Sequoia National Park's Giant Forest, home to a group of ancient sequoia trees dubbed the Four Guardsmen.

The fire reached Long Meadow Grove, where the Trail of 100 Giant Sequoias is a national monument. Fire officials haven’t yet been able to determine how much damage was done to the groves, which are in remote and hard-to-reach areas. However, an Associated Press photographer saw active flames burning up a trunk, with the forest floor ablaze below.

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning through Sunday, saying gusts and lower humidity could create conditions for rapid wildfire spread.

Firefighters battle the Windy Fire as it burns in the Trail of 100 Giants grove of Sequoia National Forest, California. AP

The fires forced the evacuation of the park last week, along with parts of Three Rivers, a foothill town of about 2,500 people. Firefighters using bulldozers expanded a line between the fire and the community, fire spokesperson Rebecca Paterson said on Sunday.

To the south, the Windy Fire grew to 28 square miles (72 square kilometres) on the Tule River Indian Reservation and in Giant Sequoia National Monument, where it has burned into the Peyrone grove of sequoias and threatens others.

Historic drought tied to climate change is making wildfires harder to fight. It has killed millions of trees in California alone. Scientists say climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

More than 7,000 wildfires in California this year have damaged or destroyed more than 3,000 homes and other buildings and torched well over 3,000 square miles (7,770 square kilometres) of land, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.


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