Firefighters Take Extreme Measures To Protect World’s Largest Tree As Wildfire Blaze Creeps In
Firefighters in California are doing all they can to try and protect the world’s largest tree from wildfires burning in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The Colony fire is one of two blazes currently burning in Sequoia National Park in California, with experts preparing for it to hit the Giant Forest, home to 2,000 sequoias, at some point on Thursday, September 16.
After thousands of sequoias, some of which were thousands of years old, were lost to wildfires last year, firefighters have gone to extreme measures to try and save the huge trees, including the General Sherman.
At 84 metres high, and with a circumference of 31 metres at ground level and a volume of 1,487 cubic metres, the General Sherman tree is the largest tree in the world, according to the US National Park Service. In an effort to protect the tree from the encroaching blaze, firefighters have wrapped it in a fire-resistant blanket that can withstand intensive heat for short periods of time.
According to federal officials cited by The Guardian, the material has been used in the US for several years to help protect sensitive structures from being burned, with some of the other sequoias, the Giant Forest Museum and other buildings receiving the same treatment this week.
Other attempts to stem the impacts of wildfires include a 50-year history of purpose-set fires, known as prescribed fires, which are intended to remove other types of vegetation that would otherwise feed wildfires in the sequoia groves, to reduce the impact of any flames that reach the area.
Fire spokesperson Rebecca Paterson praised the method, saying the ‘robust fire history of prescribed fire in that area is reason for optimism’.
Paterson added: ‘Hopefully, the Giant Forest will emerge from this unscathed.’
Fire can in fact help giant sequoias, as it allows them to release seeds from their cones and create clearings for new trees. However, the intensity of recent fires fuelled by climate change has been proven to be too much for the trees t withstand, which is what happened during blazes last year.
Per USA Today, Paterson said: ‘There’s still so many areas to cover and protect, but we’re crossing our fingers the General Sherman and giant sequoias make it through.’
The National Park Service closed Sequoia National Park on Tuesday after the two wildfires, collectively known as the KNP Complex and reportedly sparked by lightening, threatened the area.
The KNP Complex fires are just two of a number of wildfires that have blazed across nearly 9,195 square kilometres in California this summer.
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