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KNP complex fire threatens redwoods and forces evacuations

A pair of lightning-triggered fires raging in Sequoia National Park more than quintupled in 24 hours, burning closer and closer to groves of Earth’s tallest trees and forcing the evacuation of park workers and nearby residents.

The Paradise and Colony Fires – collectively referred to as the KNP complex – exploded to 5,861 acres on Tuesday afternoon, a jump of more than 4,800 acres from the previous day. According to Mark Ruggiero, spokesman for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the flames of the fire, which have no containment, have moved a little closer to the dense areas of towering giant sequoias.

An inversion layer on the fire arose, causing it to pick up and tear through intense fuels, including drought-stricken trees destroyed by bark beetles, and in drainage areas on the rough terrain, said Ruggiero, who added that “the fire has intensified enormously.”

As the Paradise Fire – now 4,821 acres – descended, crossing the center fork of the Kaweah River and the Generals Highway, workers were evacuated from the Ash Mountain headquarters complex and areas on Tuesday. neighboring housing, including the community of Sycamore in the park. , officials said.

Parts of the scenic Three Rivers foothills community were also under evacuation orders, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post. The Paradise Fire burns about three to four miles east, Ruggiero said.

Evacuation orders are in place for the Silver City and Cabin Cove area on Mineral King Road, while other areas of Three Rivers are subject to evacuation warnings.

The flames lapped about a mile from the famous Giant Forest, the largest concentration of towering giant sequoias in the park and home to the 275-foot General Sherman tree – considered the tallest tree in the world by volume, Ruggiero said.

The fires were closer to the grove, but not yet an “imminent threat,” he said.

The fires, which started on Thursday as storms hit the southern Sierra Nevada region, have been classified as a “type one” incident management category, which Ruggiero says is the highest level, bringing more resources to the fire.

Last month, the US Forest Service ordered all of California’s national forests to be closed until at least September 17, as wildfires burned across the state. The KNP fire has forced Sequoia National Park to close, while the Kings Canyon side remains open.

Nearby, a separate fire – the Windy fire, which burned south in the adjacent Sequoia National Forest – had moved into a grove of huge trees as it continued to grow at a moderate rate.

As of Tuesday morning, the fire, which ignited Thursday in the Tule River Indian Reservation before plunging into the forest, had burned 1,454 acres without containment, fire officials said.

On Monday, the fire spread to the Peyrone Sequoia Grove, which is part of the Giant Sequoia National Monument, and on Tuesday crews visited to assess the potential damage, said Thahn Nguyen, an official with the public information for the fire.

Windy’s blaze did not trigger any evacuations or warnings, but officials were watching it as it moved closer to the communities of Camp Nelson, Ponderosa and Johnsondale, Nguyen said.

With more than 15 large wildfires across the state – including the massive Dixie Blaze, which destroyed nearly a million acres – Nguyen said it was difficult to get the resources to fight all fires.

“It’s a big challenge that we have to face,” he said.