Sequoias Are Being Wrapped in Special Foil to Protect Them From Fires

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At slightest 2 wildfire complexes are threatening immoderate of the elephantine sequoia groves successful Central California.

A elephantine  sequoia successful  Kings Canyon National Park that survived the Rough occurrence  of 2015. It was weakened capable   that beetles killed it a fewer  years later.
Credit...Max Whittaker for The New York Times

Christine Hauser

Sept. 17, 2021Updated 4:48 p.m. ET

Firefighters are swaddling elephantine sequoias successful a flame-retardant foil successful an effort to support the past trees from wildfires that are raging done nationalist parks successful California, officials said.

Three wildfires, named Colony, Paradise and Windy, were ignited by lightning connected Sept. 9. Since then, they person scorched thousands of acres of steep terrain, bringing them to the ft of immoderate of the world’s oldest and largest trees successful the Giant Sequoia National Monument of the Sequoia National Forest, and successful Kings Canyon National Park successful Central California.

Park officials person been moving to incorporate the dispersed of the fires utilizing h2o and aerial drops of occurrence retardant. This week they besides started wrapping immoderate of the astir well-known of the elephantine sequoias on the walking trail, including 1 called the General Sherman, successful lawsuit the fires surge uphill into groves of elephantine sequoias.

“It is similar a large spool,” said Mark Garrett, a spokesperson for the occurrence incidental squad that is monitoring a acceptable of fires known arsenic the KNP Complex successful the Sequoia groves and successful Kings Canyon National Park.

“They conscionable unwrapped the rotation and went astir the basal of the tree,” helium said. “If occurrence got into the elephantine forest, I would beryllium beauteous assured that grove is going to beryllium fine.”

Mr. Garrett said they had to tailor the wrapper to acceptable the General Sherman’s girth. (The histrion is much than 36 feet crossed astatine its base.) The wrapping went arsenic precocious arsenic six feet precocious oregon more, helium estimated.

So far, helium could corroborate lone that the General Sherman, which is 275 feet tall, had been blanketed. Other well-known giants on the fashionable way are besides going to beryllium wrapped with the laminate of foil and fiber, which firefighters besides usage to marque their shelters.

The firefighters are besides clearing the terrain of undergrowth, fundamentally starving the flames by leaving them small to consume. But dense fume was hampering firefighting efforts, Mr. Garrett said.

The KNP Complex fire, which arsenic of Friday had grown to implicit 11,000 acres, is to the southbound and westbound of the grove that is location to the oldest sequoias, and 1 of the biggest successful the world.

The different occurrence threatening the sequoias, astir 40 miles south, called the Windy fire, was burning retired of power implicit much than 6,800 acres connected Friday. That occurrence is tearing done the Tule River Reservation and the Sequoia National Forest, said Thanh Nguyen, different occurrence incidental squad spokesman.

“It has not reached the elephantine sequoias,” helium said. “There are aggregate groves and a fistful are nether threat.”

“We don’t cognize the grade of harm astatine this point,” Mr. Nguyen added. “It is successful a truly inaccessible area.”

Over the past year, wildfires person burned millions of acres crossed California and different Western states, destroying hundreds of elephantine sequoias, countless redwoods and implicit a cardinal Joshua trees.

From 2015 done 2020, two-thirds of each grove acreage of elephantine sequoias crossed the Sierra Nevada was burned successful wildfires, compared with lone one-quarter successful the preceding century, according to the National Park Service.

The Castle wildfire past twelvemonth unsocial charred much than 170,000 acres. Seven 1000 to 11,000 ample sequoias crossed the Sierra Nevada, oregon astir 10 to 14 percent of the world’s sequoias, died successful that fire, according to the National Park Service.

Giant sequoias tin beryllium up to 3,400 years aged and turn taller than 300 feet. But drought and planetary warming person upended the beingness cycles of sequoia trees, which person typically died from falling, the parkland work said.

A terrible drought from 2012 done 2016 transformed their ecosystem, the work has said.

But prescribed burns, oregon fires acceptable connected intent to wide undergrowth, since the 1960s person helped the sequoias survive, Mr. Garrett said. They besides person earthy fire-retardant qualities, specified arsenic tannin successful their fibrous bark, which tin beryllium 3 feet thick, and the older ones person canopies of branches good supra the ground, distant from the highest flames.

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