A pair of lightning-triggered forest fires in California’s Sierra Nevada have closed Sequoia National Park and threaten its precious, gigantic trees, some of the tallest on the planet.
The threat of flames from the KNP complex has led to the park being closed and the evacuation of all park employees from nearby facilities and living areas, Sequoia National Park announced on Tuesday.
The KNP complex, consisting of Paradise Fire and Colony Fire, reached just over nine square miles on Tuesday night, according to Cal Fire. As firefighters “aggressively attack these fires,” the park said, forest fires “continue to grow and have the potential to affect infrastructure and resources in Sequoia National Park.”
Sequoia National Park is home to a forest of giant redwoods, the tallest trees in the world, according to the National Park Service website. Giant sequoias, which grow along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, can be up to 3,400 years old.
The entire KNP started last week and is expected to make its way to the Giant Forest. The forest is home to more than 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree, which is the largest tree on Earth by volume, according to the National Park Service.
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“There is no imminent threat to the giant forest, but it is a potential,” said Mark Ruggiero, fire information manager for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, in a statement. press conference Tuesday, adding that the nearest flames were about a mile from the giant forest. .
With thick bark insulating them from heat injury and branches tall enough to avoid flames, giant sequoias have adapted to live with fire for thousands of years, according to the NPS. In fact, trees rely on the heat of the fire to release the seeds from the cones.
But more intense fires have killed an “unprecedented number” of giant sequoias since 2015, according to the NPS.
“We have reached a tipping point – the lack of frequent fires over the past century in most groves, combined with the impacts of global warming, has made some wildfires much more deadly for redwoods,” he said. declared the NPS.
Redwoods are “fire adaptive,” Ruggiero said Tuesday, “but when we get such intense fires, even redwoods can’t resist them.”
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Between 2015 and 2020, two-thirds of all giant redwood grove areas in the Sierra Nevada burned in forest fires, according to the NPS. Ruggiero said the 2020 castle fire destroyed 10% of the redwood population. Some trees can be between 2000 and 3000 years old.
“The unprecedented number of giant sequoias destroyed by fire last year serves as a call to action,” said Clay Jordan, director of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in July 2021, according to the NPS website. .
Contribution: The Associated Press
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