Skip to content
Sequoia National Park’s General Sherman tree, one of the largest in the world, still safe amid growing wildfires

Firefighters battling a major wildfire in Sequoia National Park had good news to announce on Sunday: General Sherman – the giant sequoia and one of the largest living trees in the world – is still standing.

The lighting-lit 21,777-acre forest fire – dubbed the KNP Complex Fire after the Colony and Paradise fires merged – rose to more than 3,900 acres overnight, but officials said Sunday that hundreds of firefighters had valiantly kept under control key areas of the forest. . The park is located east of Fresno.

In an optimistic report on Sunday, firefighters said they felt fairly confident about protecting the giant forest, which is home to thousands of towering redwoods. Many well-established hiking trails meander through this iconic part of the park, so firefighters were able to travel and work from multiple locations.

In addition, the museum and all the infrastructure around the General Sherman Tree are equipped with sprinklers, which the firefighters have been running non-stop to ensure the area stays humid. The ancient redwood, a major tourist draw for the park, is 275 feet tall and is over 2,000 years old. It is considered to be the largest known tree in the world by volume.

“All the protections in the giant forest are going very well,” said Jon Wallace, operations chief of the South Zone Blue Team, in an update on Sunday as he scanned the latest fire maps. infrared. “The firefighters are working really hard there to contain this fire. “

But there are still reasons to be concerned. Wallace noted that strong gusty winds were starting to arrive. Critical weather conditions for the fires are expected to persist through Sunday evening, with a red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service in effect until 8 p.m. Forecasters have warned that a confluence of factors – very low levels of relative humidity and strong winds with gusts of up to 45 mph – could lead to extreme fire behavior.

“The firefighters are going to stay busy here again today,” Wallace said, “making sure everything stays safe, making sure General Sherman doesn’t catch fire.”

Officials were forced to scramble earlier this week – with an urgent appeal on Saturday for more resources – after the blaze swelled and burned the westernmost point of the giant forest near the four guards, a group of giant sequoias that mark the entrance to the forest. The teams had been working for a week to prepare the ancient sequoias by wrapping them in a material similar to aluminum foil and raking the vegetation around their bases.

Then the wind picked up on Friday afternoon and a reversal of smoke arose, allowing the sun to warm the vegetation. The firefighters had to be pulled out for safety reasons.

They were able to return to the area later on Saturday, after the General’s Highway – the only way in and out of the forest – was cleared of falling rocks and flaming vegetation that had spilled onto the road. .

There are still plenty of trees falling on the freeway, Wallace said Sunday, but logging teachers have been called in to help keep that road open for firefighting operations.

More than 600 firefighters are now fighting the KNP complex, including 21 crews, 21 engines and eight helicopters. The fire remains contained at 0%.

Officials noted that most of this growth in fires has shifted north, near the Red Fir region. The firefighters spent the last day preparing all the structures in this area for any flames that might come up.

“These firefighters are on high alert for point fires at this campground,” Wallace said. “They are ready to defend these structures when this fire starts to hit the area in the coming days. “

Wallace noted that the northwest wind that began to shift on Sunday would at least help crews working on the other end of the KNP complex fire – along Paradise Ridge. A team of bulldozer and hot shot crews, aided by helicopters and tankers, set up handlines to protect the cabin community of Three Rivers, where around 100 homes have been threatened.

“So it’s an extra layer of defense now, between the fire’s edge and Three Rivers,” Wallace said. “Even though there is a red flag warning today, these northwesterly winds are really going to be good for us in keeping the fire out of the community.

“We have a very good opportunity for the next few days to get in here and finish these lines – and be ready to defend them,” he said, “in case the winds turn around.”