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KNP Complex: Giant trees in Sequoia National Park threatened by growing fires

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, Calif .– Fire crews escalated the battle on Wednesday against two growing wildfires threatening giant redwoods and infrastructure in Sequoia National Park.

The Colony and Paradise fires, ignited by lightning last week, covered approximately 11 square miles (28 square kilometers) in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada.

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The colony fire was a threat to the giant forest, home to more than 2,000 redwoods, but not imminently, said Mark Ruggiero, fire information manager for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. .

The fires are among the latest in a long summer of fires that have burned more than 3,500 square miles (9,065 square kilometers) in California, destroying hundreds of homes.

Sequoia National Park was closed and its head office and resident employees were evacuated, along with part of the Three Rivers community outside the entrance.

The historic wooden entrance sign to the park from 1935 was covered with fire-resistant wrapping and pipes were in place in the seat area for the protection of the structure.

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More than 300 firefighters were on the lines, aided by helicopters and tankers when smoke conditions permitted. On Thursday, a national interagency management team will take over the fires, being managed collectively as a KNP complex, and even more resources are expected, Ruggiero said.

A 50-year history of using prescribed burns to remove other types of trees and vegetation in the park’s redwood groves should help the giants survive by reducing the impact if the flames reach them, Ruggiero said. .

Giant sequoias, thousands of years old, live on the western flank of the Sierra. They are fire-adapted, which can help them thrive by releasing seeds from their cones and creating clearings that allow young redwoods to thrive.

But Ruggiero noted that the extraordinary intensity of the fires under current climatic conditions can overwhelm the redwoods, a scenario that occurred when the 2020 castle fire killed many trees in the area.

Studies estimate that 7,500 to 10,600 large redwoods were killed by this fire, along with many other sizes, according to the National Park Service.

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The colony fire also poses a wider danger as it burns at an elevation in the central Sierra where 280 million pines and other types of trees are found which have been killed by drought and bark beetles, said Ruggiero.

“The Colony Fire specifically burns in a really bad place… where these trees are like jackstraws and it’s hard to put firefighters in some of these areas because of that,” he said.

Elsewhere, two fires in California that caused extensive destruction in the northern Sierra and southern Cascades have not increased.

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The second largest fire on record in the state, the Dixie Fire, remained 75% contained after burning 1,500 square miles in the northern Sierra and southern Cascade region. Near Lake Tahoe, containment of the 342 square mile (885 square kilometers) Caldor fire has increased to 70 percent.

North of San Francisco, a 20-year-old Ukiah was arrested and jailed on Tuesday on suspicion of starting the Hopkins fire in Mendocino County, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a report. communicated. The fire that started on Sunday north of Ukiah charred 257 acres (104 hectares), destroyed homes and forced evacuations.

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