Firefighters wrapped the base of the world’s largest tree in a fire-resistant blanket as they tried to save a famous grove of gigantic redwoods from wildfires burning in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada.
The colossal General Sherman tree in Sequoia National Park’s giant forest, some of the other redwoods, the Giant Forest Museum and other buildings were wrapped up as protection against the possibility of intense flames, fire spokeswoman Rebecca Paterson said.
Aluminum wrap can withstand intense heat for short periods. Federal officials say they have been using the material for several years throughout the western United States to protect sensitive structures from flames. Homes near Lake Tahoe that were wrapped in protective material survived, while others nearby were destroyed.
The Colony fire, one of two burning in Sequoia National Park, was expected to reach the Giant Forest, a grove of 2,000 redwoods, sometime on Thursday. It comes after a wildfire killed thousands of redwoods, some as tall as skyscrapers and thousands of years old, in the region last year.
The General Sherman tree is the largest in the world by volume, at 1,487 cubic meters, according to the National Park Service. It has a height of 84 meters and a circumference of 31 meters at ground level.
A 50-year history of using prescribed burning – arson set on purpose to remove other types of trees and vegetation that would otherwise fuel wildfires – in park redwood groves was expected to help giant trees survive. by lessening the impact if the flames reach them. .
A “strong fire history of prescribed fires in that area is cause for optimism,” Paterson said. “Hopefully, the Giant Forest will come out of this unscathed.”
Giant sequoias are adapted to fire, which can help them thrive by releasing seeds from their cones and creating gaps that allow young sequoias to grow. But the extraordinary intensity of the fires, fueled by climate change, can overwhelm trees.
That happened last year when the castle fire wiped out what studies estimate to be 7,500 to 10,600 large redwoods, according to the National Park Service.
A historic drought and heat waves linked to climate change have made wildfires more difficult to fight in the western United States. Scientists say climate change has made the region much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make the climate more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
The fires forced an evacuation of the park this week, and parts of the town of Three Rivers outside the main entrance remained evacuated Thursday. An excavator cut a line between the fire and the community.
The wildfires are among the latest in a long summer of fires that have burned nearly 9,195 square kilometers in California, destroying hundreds of homes.