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KNP Complex fire spares General Sherman’s sequoia for now

Wrapped in fire-resistant aluminum, the trees of the giant forest of Sequoia National Park remained safe from the KNP complex fire on Friday, even as crews worked to prepare the grove of 2,000 trees against the flames that seem imminent.

Firefighters sounded the alarm on Thursday that the blaze – consisting of the Paradise and Complex fires – could reach the grove that included the 275-foot General Sherman Tree during the day, a grim forecast that did not come true.

As growth appeared to be slowing, the lightning-triggered fires that started a week ago – and have burned 11,365 acres so far – have continued to rage without containment, sending out huge plumes of dense smoke on what is generally a popular tourist destination, fire officials said.

“He’s moving quite slowly because normally he would have run up this hill,” said Mark Garrett, spokesperson for the KNP complex fire. An inversion layer above the fire has not risen for several days, retaining the smoke and also suppressing the activity of the fire, he said.

The flames were less than a mile from the grove on Thursday, and Garrett said he had not yet reached the edge of the forest the next morning.

In an effort to prepare the towering trees – which can rise above 250 feet and live for over 3,000 years – crews on Thursday wrapped some of their bases in fire-resistant aluminum material similar to paper d ‘aluminum, and images posted on social networks showed the majestic General Sherman with a metallic band around his huge trunk. Vegetation that could be used as fuel for the fire was also cleared.

Firefighters continued their work on Friday in anticipation of flames that could reach the grove in the coming days, building containment lines and determining logistics to bring water to the area when needed, according to Mark Garrett, KNP spokesperson. Complex fire.

More personnel are arriving as the blaze has been elevated to one of the state’s top firefighting priorities, including four other hot-fire teams, officials said.

“We’re really ready to attack this thing once it hits the giant forest,” Garrett said.

Giant sequoias are adapted to withstand forest fires and even take advantage of them to reproduce, with the flames heating their cones to release the seeds. But increasingly intense fires, fueled by drought and climate change, threaten to betray this ecological contract.

Last year’s castle fire wiped out 10% of the giant sequoias population, which equates to thousands of massive trees felled by the fierce blaze.

But there is cause for optimism for this particular operation, officials said. The grove has been subjected to numerous prescribed burns since the 1960s and has one of the oldest prescribed burns on the West Coast, according to Jon Wallace, operations section chief for the KNP Complex fire.

It’s a tactic that officials effectively clear away much of the understory and bloom that can serve as fuel for the fires – a job credited with protecting the giant forest from the 150,000-acre fire in 2015. .

“So this area probably won’t have the intensity of the fire that we have in other areas,” Wallace said at a recent briefing.

To the south, in the Sequoia National Forest, Windy’s fire – which has already burned in a grove of giant redwoods – has reached 6,849 acres without containment, triggering evacuation orders and warnings for nearby communities threatened by the ‘fire.

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday ordered the evacuation of Johnsondale and nearby Camp Whitsett. Warnings are in effect for the communities of Ponderosa and Quaking Aspen, and there are road closures in the area.

Lighting lit the Windy Fire Thursday on the Tule River Indian Reservation. It quickly grew in the National Forest, and earlier this week had crept into the Peyrone Redwood Grove, Giant Redwood National Monument, and threatening other groves.

Teams attempted to examine the Peyrone Grove – located on the northern perimeter of the blaze – for potential damage, but the location amid steep, inaccessible terrain prevented close scrutiny. Officials said it could take several days to complete a preliminary assessment.

Times editor Hayley Smith contributed to this report.

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