Firefighters Race to Save Yosemite Sequoias from Wildfire

Firefighters at Yosemite worked in difficult terrain on Sunday to protect the largest grove of giant sequoias at the Yosemite National Park from a wildfire that doubled in size in one day. 

“Today it’s actually the smokiest that we’ve seen,” Yosemite fire information spokesperson Nancy Phillipe said Sunday.  

“Up until this morning, the park has not been in that unhealthy category, but that is where we are now,” Phillipe added. 

The fire threatened more than 500 mature sequoias in the Mariposa Grove, but there were no reports of severe damage to any named trees, including the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant.  

Phillipe also said that the sprinkler system set up within the grove kept the tree trunks moist, and officials hoped the steady spray of water would keep the fire at bay.  

Once considered fire-proof, the giant sequoias have increasingly become vulnerable as wildfires become more intense and destructive because of a buildup of undergrowth from a century of fire suppression and drought. 

Meanwhile, residents of Wawona, a small community surrounded by parkland, were ordered to evacuate on Friday as the threat from the fire increased. 

Senior meteorologist Jeffrey Barlow at the National Weather Service in Hanford warned that temperatures would rise and reach the lower 90s in the coming days. 

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, over 35,000 wildfires have burned 4.7 million acres in the U.S. in 2022. 

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