Small gains were made Saturday against a raging wildfire that has been encroaching upon California towns this week, calming fears that ancient sequoias threatened by the blaze would be lost, according to Jim Schwarber, a spokesman for the fire incident management team, Reuters reported.
“The fire was in the northern part of a famed grove of giant sequoia trees in Kings Canyon National Park on Saturday, but Mr. Schwarber said the giant sequoias were less of a concern because they were naturally flame-resistant and more protected.”
Dubbed the “Rough Fire,” the Sierra Nevada blaze has affected roughly 3,500 people in the area around McKenzie Ridge, where firefighters strengthened containment lines Saturday, Schwarber announced, adding that more evacuations could be triggered at any time if the fire reaches the containment lines and spreads north.
Schwarber also reveals that the Rough Fire is exhibiting all the right conditions for it to be making the type of large acreage gain that caused the sequoias to be threatened, with the naturally steep terrain, upslope wind, and low humidity in the area creating a perfect storm that was making the blaze tricky to control.
The Rough Fire is currently ranking as California’s largest active fire, scorching more than 52,000 hectares and causing forced evacuations of large portions of Kings Canyon in southern portions of the Sierra Nevada, with more than 2,500 firefighters on the front lines Saturday to protect the sequoias threatened by the wildfire. Containment is currently listed at 29 percent, and Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in California to free up resources and funding in the firefight against this blaze and a smaller wildfire that is burning in both Calaveras and Amador counties, reported KRON4.
Caused by lightning strikes on July 31, the Rough Fire has already charred more than 172 square miles and has grown by at least 40 square miles throughout the course of the last week. Firefighters have been clearing lines with bulldozers and installing sprinklers around the famous sequoias threatened around Grant Grove, which is named for the giant “General Grant” sequoia tree, which currently reaches over 268 feet high.
The Sierra Nevada is home to dozens of sequoia tree groves, some of which are as much as 3,000 years old. Andy Isolano, a spokesman for the Clovis Fire Department, told the Associated Press the sequoias threatened by the blaze can endure fire, but added that many are already stressed by a four-year drought. So far, the flames have come within a few miles of the treasured grove.
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