Fire fighters have protected several massive sequoia trees in California by covering their bases with a foil-like wrap to protect them. In spite of the intense wildfires, fire fighters have so far been able to save some of the most famous of these trees.
The giant sequoia trees found in Sequoia National Park in California are some of the largest trees in the world. Sequoias are one of the few kinds of trees that can grow to more than 300 feet (91.4 meters). They can also live to be 3,400 years old, making them some of the oldest trees alive.
One of the secrets to the success of sequoias is that they have a substance called tannin in their extremely thick bark which helps protect them from wildfires. In some cases, mild wildfires can actually help the trees, triggering the release of their seeds, and clearing areas for new sequoias to grow.
But sequoias are endangered, and have struggled in the severe dry conditions that they have faced in the last few years. Normally, sequoias die by falling over. But intense wildfires in recent years have seriously reduced their numbers. Last year’s Castle wildfire killed nearly 14% of the world’s sequoias.
So when wildfires began approaching the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, fire fighters knew they had to take action.
The Giant Forest is home to five of the 10 most massive trees on Earth, including the world’s largest living tree, a sequoia named “General Sherman”. General Sherman is between 2,300 and 2,700 years old. It’s 275 feet (83.8 meters) tall and 103 feet (31.3 meters) around at its base.
Fire fighters have long used a special wrapping material made of aluminum to protect houses and other buildings from wildfires. Now they have used this foil-like wrap to cover the bases of several large important sequoias to help protect them from possible fire damage.
The fires in the area are intense. The KNP Complex Fire is made of two other wildfires that have been burning since September 9. The fires grew together to become one massive fire. To the south, the Windy Fire is threatening another large group of sequoias. Together, the fires have burned around 77 square miles (200 square kilometers) of land.
Fire fighters aren’t just counting on the foil wrapping to protect the trees. They have cleared the areas around the trees so that there isn’t much else that can burn there. They have also used planes and helicopters to drop water and special chemicals to help put out the flames in the area around the sequoias.
The fires aren’t under control, but fire fighters say four large, famous sequoias on the edge of the Giant Forest survived the KNP Complex fire over the weekend.
Scientists say that over the last 30 years, climate change has led to hotter, drier weather in the American west. The current drought is part of that cycle, and helped create the conditions that have led to so many large intense wildfires in California and other western states.
Did You Know…?
Over 3,550 square miles (9,195 square kilometers) of land have been burned in wildfires in California alone so far this year. That’s an area larger than the states of Delaware and Rhode Island put together.
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