Teams monitor weather as wildfire burns near redwoods
THREE RIVERS, California. – Crews monitored the weather this weekend as they battled California wildfires that burned groves of gigantic ancient redwoods as they tried to protect the world’s tallest tree.
The National Weather Service released a weather watch for critical fire conditions in Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada, where the colony fire was burning about a mile from Giant Forest, a grove of 2,000 giant sequoias.
Firefighters wrapped the base of the General Sherman tree in fire-resistant aluminum of the type used in wildland firefighter emergency shelters and to protect historic timber buildings, the firefighter spokeswoman said, Rebecca Paterson.
The General Sherman Tree is the world’s largest by volume, at 52,508 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters), according to the National Park Service. It stands at 275 feet (84 meters) high and has a circumference of 103 feet (31 meters) at ground level.
The colony fire is one of two lightning-triggered fires, known together as the KNP complex, that burned approximately 18 square miles (46 square kilometers) of forest land.
The fires forced the evacuation of the park this week and parts of Three Rivers, a hilltop community of about 2,500 people outside the park’s main entrance. The teams bulldozed a line between the fire and the community.
Cooler, calmer weather and low morning smoke choking the air limited the growth of the blaze in recent days, but the National Weather Service said a low-pressure system would bring gusts of wind and a lower humidity until Sunday in the fire zone.
However, firefighters weren’t expecting the kind of explosive wind-driven growth that in recent months has turned the Sierra Nevada fires into monsters that have devoured hundreds of homes.
“There isn’t a lot of extreme weather forecast for the next few days which is good news, there aren’t a lot of big wind changes expected. However, there is also no rain forecast, “said fire intelligence spokesperson Rebecca Paterson.
Giant sequoias are adapted to fire, which can help them thrive by releasing seeds from their cones and creating clearings that allow young sequoias to thrive. But the extraordinary intensity of fires – fueled by climate change – can overwhelm trees.
Fires have already burned down in several groves containing trees up to 61 meters tall and 2,000 years old. They include Oriole Lake Grove in the National Park and the North and South Peyrone Groves in the nearby Sequoia National Forest.
The fire had also reached Long Meadow Grove in the National Forest, where two decades ago President Clinton signed a proclamation establishing a national monument.
“These groves are just as impressive and just as ecologically important to the forest,” Tim Borden, Redwood Restoration and Stewardship Manager for the Save the Redwoods League, told the Bay Area News Group. “They just aren’t that well-known. My heart sinks when I think about it.
To the south, the Windy Fire has reached nearly 28 square kilometers in the Tule River Indian Reservation and Giant Sequoias National Monument, where it burned a grove of sequoias and threatened others.
Firefighters have not yet been able to determine the extent of the damage to the groves, which are in remote and hard-to-reach areas.
Last year, the castle fire killed an estimated 7,500 to 10,600 large sequoias, according to the National Park Service. This represented about 10% to 14% of all redwoods in the world.
Current fires eat away dry wood, grass and brush.
Historic drought related to climate change makes forest fires more difficult to fight. He killed millions of trees in California alone. Scientists say climate change has made the West much hotter and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and forest fires more frequent and destructive.
More than 7,000 California wildfires this year have damaged or destroyed more than 3,000 homes and other buildings and burned down more than 3,000 square miles (7,770 square kilometers) of land, according to the California Department of Forestry and Protection against fires.
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