Wildfires threaten one of America’s best-known national parks

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

Firefighters continue their effort to protect California’s Sequoia National Park, famed for the towering trees after which it was named, from the ever-expanding KNP Complex Fire.

More than 350 firefighters have been employed in the fight against the KNP Complex, which is a combination of the Paradise and Colony wildfires.

“Active wildfires caused by a significant lightning storm on Thursday September 9 are still growing and have the potential to affect Sequoia National Park infrastructure and resources,” the park’s current conditions page reads. “We are aggressively attacking these fires to suppress them … Both are in steep and dangerous terrain, and numerous aircraft are using water and retardant to slow the rate of spread.”

The KNP Complex, as of this writing was 0% contained and spreading in all directions; and it had resulted in the evacuation of employees as well as communities near Sequoia National Park.

On Thursday, firefighters began wrapping the sequoias – including the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest known single-stem tree – with special aluminum blankets that can withstand short bursts of intense heat. Buildings, including the park’s museum, have also been wrapped.

A Thursday press release from the park reads, “Crews are preparing the Giant Forest before the fire reaches that area, by removing fuel and applying structure wrap on some of the iconic monarch sequoias that characterize the most famous area of Sequoia National Park.”

This is the second time in the last year that the park has been threatened by wildfires.

The National Park Service estimates that last year the Castle Fire killed at about 10% of the large sequoias in the Sierra Nevada, the region in which Sequoia National Park is situated. However, at least 60%, and potentially as many as 70%, of the trees within the Castle Fire’s footprint survived.

In an Associated Press article, officials indicated a degree of optimism that the forest would again withstand a fire. The success of the forest against the Castle Fire was attributed to regular controlled burns, also known as prescribed fires, which remove the underbrush, shrubs, and smaller trees that serve as the fuel for wildfires.