World’s tallest tree, the 275ft General Sherman, is wrapped in fire-resistant aluminum blanket as wildfires bear down on ancient sequoia forests
- Two fires are looming down on National Sequoia Park’s treasured Giant Forest
- The park houses five of the world’s largest trees, including the General Sherman
- The aluminum wrapping being used can handle intensive heat for short periods
The tallest tree in the world – a 275-foot General Sherman – was among a grove of ancient sequoias wrapped in fire-proof blanks Thursday to spare them from blazes tearing through the Western U.S.
Trees in the Sequoia National Park´s Giant Forest – as well as the Giant Forest Museum and other buildings – were covered in aluminum wrapping that can handle intensive heat for short periods, a fire official said.
Firefighters were also clearing brush and pre-positioning engines among the 2,000 ancient trees, incident commanders said.
‘They are taking extraordinary measures to protect these trees,’ said park resource manager Christy Brigham, according to The Mercury News.
‘We just really want to do everything we can to protect these 2,000- and 3,000-year-old trees.’
Crews are working to protect ancient sequoias from blazes raging through the Western U.S.
Federal officials say they have been using the material for several years throughout the U.S. West to protect sensitive structures from flames. Near Lake Tahoe, some homes that were wrapped in protective material survived a recent wildfire while others nearby were destroyed.
The Colony Fire, one of two burning in Sequoia National Park, was expected to reach the Giant Forest, a grove of 2,000 sequoias, at some point within days, fire officials said.
However, the fire didn´t grow significantly Thursday as a layer of smoke reduced its spread in the morning, fire spokeswoman Katy Hooper said.
It comes after a wildfire killed thousands of sequoias, some as tall as high-rises and thousands of years old, in the region last year.
The Colony Fire is expected to reach the Giant Forest sequoia grove within days, officials say
Around 500 people are battling the Paradise and Colony fires, which started on September 10
Millions of acres (hundreds of thousands of hectares) of California’s forests have burned in this year’s ferocious fire season.
Scientists say man-made global warming is behind the years-long drought and rising temperatures that have left the region highly vulnerable to wildfires.
On Thursday, two fires were looming down on the park’s Giant Forest, home to five of the world’s largest trees, including the General Sherman.
Around 500 personnel were engaged in battling the Paradise Fire and the Colony Fire, which together have already consumed 9,365 acres of woodland since they erupted from lightning strikes on September 10.
The enormous trees of the Giant Forest are a huge tourist draw, with visitors travelling from all over the world to marvel at their imposing height and extraordinary girth.
While not the tallest trees — California redwoods can grow to more than 300 feet — the giant sequoias are the largest by volume.
Smaller fires generally do not harm the sequoias, which are protected by a thick bark, and actually help them to reproduce; the heat they generate opens cones to release seeds.
But the larger, hotter blazes that are laying waste to the western United States are dangerous to them because they climb higher up the trunks and into the canopy.
Firefighters wrap the historic Sequoia National Forest entrance sign with fire-proof blankets
The General Sherman Tree, the tallest in the world by volume, towers at 275 feet high
The General Sherman Tree is the largest in the world by volume, at 52,508 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters), according to the National Park Service. It towers 275 feet (84 meters) high and has a circumference of 103 feet (31 meters) at ground level.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks Superintendent Clay Jordan stressed the importance of protecting the massive trees from high-intensity fire during a briefing for firefighters.
A 50-year history of using prescribed burns – fires set on purpose to remove other types of trees and vegetation that would otherwise feed wildfires – in the parks´ sequoia groves was expected to help the giant trees survive by lessening the impact if flames reach them.
General sequoias are adapted to fire, but extraordinary intense fires can overwhelm them
An area wildfire last year killed thousands of sequoia trees, including some as tall as high rises
A “robust fire history of prescribed fire in that area is reason for optimism,” Paterson said. “Hopefully, the Giant Forest will emerge from this unscathed.”
Giant sequoias are adapted to fire, which can help them thrive by releasing seeds from their cones and creating clearings that allow young sequoias to grow. But the extraordinary intensity of fires – fueled by climate change – can overwhelm the trees.
That happened last year when the Castle Fire killed what studies estimate were 7,500 to 10,600 large sequoias, according to the National Park Service.
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