California wildfires are heading for giant sequoia trees

Crews were monitoring the weather as they battled California wildfires, which have engulfed some groves filled with ancient sequoias. They are trying to preserve the largest tree in the world.

California wildfires are heading for giant sequoia trees

The National Weather Service issued an advisory for severe fire conditions in Sequoia National park in the Sierra Nevada. Two lightning-caused fires were merged Friday, after the fire had grown to its highest point in a week. The fire reached the Giant Forest's western tip, where it burned four trees known as "Four Guardsmen", which flank the road to the grove of 2,000.

It is not known how much the fire caused damage to the trees.

Firefighters wrapped the base and other trees of the General Sherman Tree in fire-resistant aluminum, the same type used in wildland emergency shelters for firefighters, according to Katy Hooper, a fire spokesperson.

According to the National Park Service, the General Sherman Tree is the largest tree in volume at 52,508 cubic yards (1,487 cubic metres). It is tall at 275 feet (84m) and its circumference is 103 feet (31m) below ground.

After a significant run on Friday, the fires collectively known as the KNP Complex burned 28 miles (72 km) of forest land. Hooper stated that low-hanging smoke, which had impeded air flow and restricted fire growth in recent days, has lifted. Winds have increased fire activity, particularly around the Giant Forest.

Hooper stated that firefighters who were wrapping sequoias with aluminum and clearing vegetation from the forest floor to intensify the fire near the trees were driven away by the flames. She said that a hotshot crew was inspecting the conditions around the Four Guardsmen Saturday morning in order to determine whether firefighters are safe to return and continue their work.

This week, the park and parts of Three Rivers were evacuated. Three Rivers is a foothill community with approximately 2,500 residents just outside the park's main entrance. Crews are currently removing a line that runs between the fire and the community.

Through Sunday, the National Weather Service issued an advisory that warned of possible wildfire spreading from lower humidity and gusts.

But fire officials didn't expect the kind of wind-driven growth that has transformed Sierra Nevada blazes in to monsters that have destroyed hundreds of homes.

Giant sequoias can thrive on fire because they are well-adapted to it. This allows them to release seeds from their cones, and create clearings for young sequoias to grow. However, the extreme intensity of fires can cause trees to become overwhelmed by the effects of climate change.

Jon Wallace, chief of operations for the KNP Complex, stated that once fire is started inside a tree, it will cause death.

Already, fires have already engulfed groves that housed trees up to 200 feet (61m) tall and as old as 2,000 years.

The Windy Fire, which grew to the south, reached 19 square miles (50 km2) on the Tule River Indian Reservation. It is also located in Giant Sequoia National Monument. There it burned into the Peyrone sequoia grove and threatened others.

Also, the fire had reached Long Meadow Grove where, two decades ago, then-President Clinton signed an order establishing its Trail of 100 Giant Sequoias National Monument.

Officials from fire departments have not yet been able determine the extent of damage done to the groves. They are located in remote, difficult-to-reach places. Crews are "doing all they can" in order to protect the trail, removing any needles, leaves or other fuels from the area around the tree's base.

According to the National Park Service, last year's Castle Fire claimed 7,500-10,600 large sequoias. This was 10%-14% of all sequoias worldwide.

Current fires are consuming tinder-dry wood, grass, and brush.

A welcome sign for firefighters fighting wildfires in Northern California was an early season shower. It came in the wake of lightning strikes in Klamath National Forest in July. Officials from fire departments say that while it will not extinguish the 300-square-mile (772-kilometer) flames, it will aid crews in reaching their goal.

The weekend will bring light rain to the coast north of San Francisco, but forecasters predict that conditions will dry out by next week. This could lead to a fire weather watch, which may result in power cuts in Napa, Sonoma, and Solano counties.

Wildfires are becoming more difficult to combat because of historic drought. It has already claimed the lives of millions of trees in California. Scientists believe that climate change has made West more dry and warmer over the past 30 years. This will make wildfires more destructive and more extreme in the West.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, more than 7000 wildfires have destroyed or damaged over 3,000 California homes and torched 3000 sq. miles (7,770 km) of land.

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