Great Britain

California wildfire threatens world’s largest tree – 275ft General Sherman

California wildfires in the Sierra Nevada are threatening to engulf the world’s largest tree Sequoia National Park’s General Sherman — the world’s largest tree.

The Colony and Paradise Fires, collectively known as the KNP Complex Fire, started with a lightning strike on 10 September.

Since then, park employees, Three Rivers, Silver City, and Cabin Cove residents — which are areas near the national park — are under evacuation orders.

Mark Ruggiero, the fire information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, said while there is no impending threat, “that is a potential”, at a press conference on Tuesday.

But by Wednesday morning, the fires had burned through 5,000 acres of land and through hundreds of homes. The National Park Service (NPS) closed the park on Wednesday. The fires were “still growing and have the potential to affect Sequoia National Park infrastructure and resources,” NPS said Wednesday.

The Giant Forst lives within the Sequoia National Park and boasts over 2,000 giant sequoia trees, some of which are the tallest and oldest in the world.

The giant sequoias have flourished from prescribed fires because they helps seeds be released from cones, which starts the cycle for more sequoias to grow. However, today’s wildfires, driven by the climate crisis, are more intense, and threaten the famous trees. The 2020 Castle Fire, for example, killed 7,500 to 10,600 large sequoias, according to the NPS.

Along with the more intense fires, Mr Ruggiero said the trees are also hard to access. “The Colony Fire specifically is burning in a really bad spot ... where these trees are like jackstraws and it’s difficult to put fire personnel into some of these areas because of that.”

So far, over 300 firefighters have been using airplanes to release fire retardants onto the blaze. Clay Jordan, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said the firefighters “literally started painting the mountains red with retardant,” at a news conference on Tuesday.

The climate crisis is fuelling a severe drought and more intense and frequent wildfires in California. The Dixie Fire, which has been burning for more than two months, is California’s second-largest wildfire.

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