Firefighters rush to protect giant redwoods from California fires
Hundreds of firefighters were fighting on Monday to protect several groves of giant redwoods in the United States, warning that the huge, century-old trees were threatened by uncontrollable fires.
A number of separate fires converged on the California rainforest that is home to the huge trees, highlighting the terrifying power of wildfires to consume everything in their path.
Incident commanders said the Windy Fire, which has already charred 25,000 acres (10,000 hectares), has burned in remote areas of Peyrone Sequoia Grove and Red Hill Grove.
âWe don’t know if these are destroyed,â said Amanda Munsey, spokesperson for the Windy Fire incident, according to the Los Angeles Times. “But the fire completely surrounded these two groves.”
Near Long Meadow Grove, the fire had spread to the vulnerable tops of at least one of the trees.
“He was running towards several trees and (the fire department) managed to get him out, but he got into the crown of one of the redwoods.”
Forest fires that spread to the treetops – especially very tall trees – can move quickly through the forest, as the treetops explode, raining embers down a large area below them.
Further north, the KNP Complex fire continued to threaten the famous Giant Forest, home to General Sherman, the world’s tallest tree by volume, which rises to 275 feet (83 meters).
General Sherman, who is estimated by the National Parks Service to be 2,200 years old, was wrapped in fire-retardant aluminum blankets last week.
Incident commanders said they believed they could protect the tree from the 24,000-acre blaze, which was triggered by lightning just over a week ago.
They indicate careful forest management over the past decades, including prescribed burns that deplete available fuels and slow the progression of fires.
California and other parts of the western United States are suffering from a drought that has lasted for years and left swaths of the region’s beautiful forests dry.
Scientists say human activity, including the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels, is warming the planet and changing weather patterns, making forest fires hotter, more intense and more destructive.
Giant sequoias are the tallest trees in the world by volume. Their parents, the California Redwoods, can grow taller – well over 100 yards – but aren’t as wide.
Both tree species are fire-resistant, with a thick bark that protects them from heat.
During their lifetime, which is measured in thousands of years, they typically experience numerous fires, the heat of which helps their cones open, allowing the seeds to disperse.
But longer, hotter, more aggressive fires can damage them, sometimes irreparably, and California has recently seen several seasons of severe fires in a row.
A fire last year killed up to 10,000 trees.
Rising temperatures and increasing drought due to changing precipitation patterns due to climate change create ideal conditions for forest fires. The World Meteorological Organization said the five-year period to 2019 was “unprecedented” for fires, especially in Europe and North America.
hg / caw