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Crews scramble to make progress against California wildfires

Alex Wigglesworth, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

“It is also encountering lighter fuels like grasses, which makes it much easier to contain down there,” he said.

Fire crews have largely been able to save the Giant Forest, the park’s largest concentration of giant sequoias that is home to the famed General Sherman tree, believed to be the world’s largest by volume. The fire did burn sequoias on the perimeter of the forest when it scorched the western edges, Garrett said,

“Some bigger trees have big holes or caves under them so the fire gets under there and cooks and cooks,” he said.

A giant sequoia believed to have been killed by the fire fell across Generals Highway right before the Four Guardsmen trees on Friday, for a time blocking crews from being able to travel from the northern portion of the fire to the southern portion, he said.

A hotshot crew was able to cut out a large section of the tree and a road grader pushed the material away so that people could drive through it, he said.

“If you drive up there on either side of the road, there’s just a huge sequoia cutout that’s even taller than me,” he said. “That’s going to be there forever now.”

 

A high-pressure system was helping to hold thick smoke over the area, which was suppressing fire behavior by keeping temperatures lower and humidity levels higher, but also preventing aircraft from flying, Garrett said.

“So it’s a double-edged sword, as they say,” he said. “Either way, we’re going to use what we can to our advantage.”

In some areas, crews were spraying retardant from trucks near fire lines to help create buffers, similar to how aircraft would do it but slower, Jon Wallace, operations sections chief, said in a morning briefing.

The fire’s rapid growth was being fed by beetle-killed trees, Garrett said, estimating there are more than a million of them in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park alone.

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