Four famous giant sequoias were not harmed by a wildfire that reached the edge of Giant Forest in California’s Sequoia National Park, authorities in the United States have said, amid concerns the blaze could damage the trees.
The Four Guardsmen, a group of trees that form a natural entryway on the road to the ancient forest, were successfully protected from the raging KNP Complex fire by the removal of nearby vegetation and by wrapping fire-resistant material around the bases of the trees, the firefighting management team said in a statement on Sunday.
Historic drought tied to climate change is making wildfires in the western US harder to fight, and it has killed millions of trees in California alone. A wildfire last year killed thousands of sequoias, some as tall as high-rises and thousands of years old.
The KNP Complex fire began as two lightning-sparked blazes that merged and has scorched more than 96sq km (37sq miles) in the heart of sequoia country on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
There was no immediate word on the full extent of damage in several other sequoia groves reached by a separate blaze, the Windy Fire, in the Giant Sequoia National Monument area of Sequoia National Forest and the Tule River Indian Reservation.
The Windy Fire has burned through the Peyrone and Red Hill groves, as well as a portion of the Long Meadow Grove along the Trail of 100 Giants.
A portion of one giant sequoia along the trail was confirmed to have burned, said Thanh Nguyen, a spokesman for the fire command.
Fire crews with hoses and water-dropping helicopters were working to limit damage to the giant sequoias in the groves, where there are also other types of trees.
Sequoias have adapted to fire and can benefit if the flames are low intensity.
The Windy Fire has scorched more than 101sq km (39sq miles) and was just 4 percent contained.
The KNP Complex forced the evacuation of Sequoia National Park last week, and on Sunday much of the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park was closed. Visitors to areas that were still open were warned of hazardous air quality due to smoke.
A large area of Northern California was under a red flag warning for extreme fire danger on Monday due to dry offshore winds.
The warning did not extend into Southern California, but forecasters said there would be weak Santa Ana winds and significant warming – elevating the risk of wildfires.
More than 7,000 wildfires in California this year have damaged or destroyed more than 3,000 homes and other buildings and burned well more than 7,770sq km (3,000sq miles) of land, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.