Wildfires force Sequoia National Park closure, threaten majestic trees

THREE RIVERS, Calif. — Some of the world’s oldest and biggest trees are in peril after a trio of central California wildfires burned largely unchecked through the weekend, forcing the closure of Sequoia National Park to visitors.

Lightning strikes ignited the Colony, Paradise and Windy fires on Thursday after a series of thunderstorms pushed through the area. Known collectively as the KNP Complex, the Paradise and Colony fires have since scorched more than 1,000 acres and remained 0% contained on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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Mark Ruggiero, a public information officer for the national parks, told the newspaper that the blazes necessitated Sequoia’s closure but the Kings Canyon side remained open.

Meanwhile, Kate Kramer, a spokesperson for the Windy fire to the south, confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that the separate blaze has charred a total of 974 acres, burning into the Peyrone Sequoia grove, part of the Giant Sequoia National Monument.

According to a statement issued Monday, park officials have been using water and retardant drops to contain the spread, but progress has been slow because the steep, densely forested terrain is inaccessible from the ground, The New York Times reported.

Kramer told the Los Angeles Times that it was not immediately clear if any of the towering sequoias, which can rise more than 250 feet and live for 3,000 years, had been felled by the flames.

Meanwhile, Ruggiero explained that the gigantic redwoods, the largest of which is the 275-foot General Sherman, are naturally fire adaptive and require flames to reproduce, but the intensity of recent blazes has stunted their growth, the newspaper reported.

Ruggiero also confirmed that the General Sherman, not currently threatened by the trio of fires, is considered to be the world’s largest tree by volume.

“The potential is there, with the current climate and how fires have been burning these last two years,” he told the newspaper.

Over the past year, wildfires have burned millions of acres across California and other western U.S. states, destroying hundreds of giant sequoias, redwoods and more than 1 million Joshua trees, The New York Times reported.

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