On Sunday, hot and dry weather increased to the difficulties faced by California firefighters fighting to keep flames from spreading farther into a historic sequoia forest, where the base of the world's largest tree had been wrapped in protective foil.
Strong Winds Worsening the Stiuation
According to fire authorities, stronger winds were contributing to "critical fire conditions" in the KNP Complex, two lightning-sparked fires that combined on the western edge of Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a red flag warning that will last until Sunday, stating that strong winds and low humidity might lead to fast wildfire spread.
The historic drought brought on by the climate catastrophe makes wildfires more challenging to put out, and it has destroyed millions of trees in California alone. Moreover, according to scientists, climate change has made the west warmer and drier in the last 30 years and will continue to make weather more intense and wildfires more frequent and devastating.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, more than 7,000 wildfires have burned over 3,000 square miles of land in California this year, destroying or damaging over 3,000 houses and other structures.
Burning the Sequoia
Last week, fires prompted the evacuation of Sequoia National Park and sections of Three Rivers, a 2,500-person foothill hamlet. Between the fire and the community, crews have begun bulldozing a line. Over 34 square kilometers of forest area have been engulfed in ash.
According to the National Park Service, the flames had reached the westernmost tip of the Giant Forest, burning a clump of sequoias known as the Four Guardsmen, which marked the entry to the grove of 2,000 trees.
Firefighters coated the base of the General Sherman Tree and the bases of other trees in the Giant Forest in a heat-resistant metal. The same treatment was given to the Four Guardsmen. Katy Hooper, a fire spokesman, said it was unclear how those trees fared.
According to the National Park Service, the General Sherman Tree is the world's biggest volume, measuring 52,508 cubic feet. It is 275 feet tall and has a 103-foot diameter at ground level.
Protecting the Trees
On Friday, Hooper said, firefighters, covering the base of the sequoias in foil and brushing leaves and needles from the forest floor surrounding the trees, had to escape. On Saturday, when the weather improved, they returned to finish the job and set up a strategic fire along Generals Highway to defend the Giant Forest grove.
Fire-adapted giant sequoias can help others survive by releasing seeds from their cones and creating clearings where new trees can develop. However, the extreme severity of flames driven by climate change may be too much for the trees to handle.
The KNP Complex's operations section chief, Jon Wallace, explained, "Once you get a fire going within the tree, that will result in death."
Several groves, some as tall as 200 feet and 2,000 years old, have been destroyed by the flames.
To the south, the Windy fire has burnt through the Peyrone grove of sequoias and threatens others on the Tule River Indian Reservation and in Giant Sequoia National Monument.
The fire has also spread to Long Meadow Grove, home to the National Monument Trail of 100 Giant Sequoias. The extent of the damage to the groves, located in isolated locations, was unknown to fire officials.
Related Article: Why Should We Start Planting More Sequoia Trees?
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