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Yosemite wildfire threatening grove of giant sequoia trees

A wildfire burning in Yosemite National Park has forced the closure of its largest grove of sequoias on Friday as flames threatened the gigantic trees.

The National Parks service deployed teams to the Mariposa Grove to cover the trunks of the sequoias in fire-resistant foil to protect them from the blaze, which is burning out of control, according to Yosemite fire information spokesperson Nancy Phillipe.

Over 500 mature trees were threatened, but there have been no reports of severe damage to any named trees, such as the iconic 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant.

Sequoias, the world’s largest trees that can grow up to 300-feet tall, were previously considered immune to flames but have become increasingly vulnerable to wildfires amid widespread drought and climate change.

Wildfires sparked by lightning over the past two years have killed up to a fifth of the estimated 75,000 large sequoias remaining.

The trees only grow in about 70 groves located on the western slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. They are the largest trees on Earth in terms of volume.

There was no evidence of natural causes that sparked the fire Thursday near Yosemite’s Washburn Trail, Phillipe said. Visitors reported seeing smoke near the grove, which just reopened after a $40 million renovation in 2018. 

Lightning strikes sparking the fires have killed up to a fifth of the remaining sequoias.
National Park Service/AP

The grove was evacuated and no injuries were reported.

The fire tripled in size to over 166 acres overnight, Philippe said. The nearby village of Wawona, where between 600 and 700 campers were lodged, is under an evacuation advisory.

“Our priorities are certainly the giant sequoias and the community of Wawona,” Phillipe told The Associated Press.

Fifteen Sequoias were leveled, along with thousands of other trees, and a windstorm ripped through the area a year and a half ago. The downed trees, exacerbated by all of the pine trees killed by bark beetles, fueled winds that spread Thursday’s fire. By Friday, the wind had calmed and the fire’s spread slowed.

Wildfires in Yosemite
Sequoias were previously considered immune to flames but have become increasingly more vulnerable.
National Park Service/AP

Roughly 80 miles to the northwest, the massive Electra Fire has been 65% contained after scorching more than 7 square miles. 

The fire broke out near Jackson on Monday and temporarily forced about 100 people celebrating the July 4th holiday along a river to seek shelter in a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. facility.

With Post Wires

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