Fri, 22 Oct 2021

Giant sequoia trees in California threatened by wildfires

Robert Besser
19 Sep 2021, 09:23 GMT+10

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, California: Sequoia National Park and its namesake gigantic trees could be threatened by two large forest fires blazing through California's Sierra Nevada mountains.

Both fires could advance towards Giant Forest, home to more than 2,000 giant sequoias, including "General Sherman," the largest tree on Earth by volume.

Mark Ruggiero, fire information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, said, "There is no imminent threat to Giant Forest, but there is a potential."

The closest flames were about 1 mile away. Meanwhile, 75 Sequoia headquarters personnel are being evacuated, he added.

The fires, whose combined sizes were more than 9-square miles on Tuesday, were ignited by lightning last week.

Authorities closed all park facilities and canceled wilderness trailhead permits, but Kings Canyon National Park, north of Sequoia, remains open.

Ruggiero stressed that the fire has destroyed 10 percent of the population of sequoias, which rely on fire to help release seeds from their cones and clear areas of forest for their seedlings to grow. But climate change has increased the intensity of forest fires and their repercussions.

"Sequoia trees are a fire-adaptive tree. It is important to have fire to help sequoias thrive, but when we get such intense fires, even the sequoias cannot stand up to them," Ruggiero said, as quoted by Associated Press.

Giant sequoias are closely related to the redwoods that grow along the northern California coast and have the same relationship with fire.

A massive fire blazed through Big Basin Redwoods State Park between San Francisco and Monterey Bay last year, and a week after the fire, an Associated Press reporter hiked the Redwood Trail and confirmed that most of the redwoods, with some being 2,000 years old, had survived.

More than 7,400 wildfires have been recorded in California this year, which have burned through an area of over 3,500-square miles.

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