On Sunday, September 19, two lightning-sparked wildfires in California converged and raced to the edge of a grove of sequoia trees. The firefighters tried to keep the fire from spreading further into another grove, where the base of the world's largest trees, General Sherman, were wrapped in protective foil, according to The Associated Press (AP). A change in the weather caused the fires in Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada to expand rapidly, and the flames reached the Giant Forest's westernmost tip. According to a statement released by the Sequoia National Park, the fire further scorched a cluster of sequoias known as the "Four Guardsmen," which marked the entrance to the grove of 2,000 sequoias. Fire officials have yet to determine the extent of the damage to the groves, which are located in isolated and difficult-to-reach places. Meanwhile, the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the rest of the week, stating that strong winds and low humidity might lead to rapid wildfire spread.
The fires, known together as the KNP Complex, blackened 34 square miles (88 square kilometres) of forest land. However, fire-adapted giant sequoias can thrive by releasing seeds from their cones and creating clearings where young sequoias can grow. However, fires of unprecedented severity, exacerbated by climate change, maybe too much for the trees to handle, reported The AP. The Sequoia National Park and parts of Three Rivers, a foothill community of roughly 2,500 people, were forced to evacuate due to the flames. According to fire spokesperson Rebecca Paterson, firefighters used bulldozers to expand a line between the fire and the community. Meanwhile, another fire spokesperson Katy Hooper stated that firefighters who were wrapping the base of the sequoias in foil had to flee from the danger on Saturday, September 18. However, once the weather improved, they returned to finish the job to protect the Giant Forest grove, she added as reported by AP.
Wildfires are becoming more challenging to handle as a result of a historic drought linked to climate change. In California alone, it has damaged millions of trees. Scientists opine that climate change has made the West significantly warmer and drier in the last 30 years and will continue to make weather more intense and wildfires more frequent and catastrophic in the future, reported The AP. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, more than 7,000 wildfires have burned over 3,000 square miles of land in California this year, destroying or damaging more than 3,000 homes and other buildings, reported The AP.