Windy fire threatens giant sequoia groves, Trail of 100 Giants survives

California

SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST, Calif. (KSEE) — The Windy Fire that is burning near the Tule River Reservation is now nearly 95,000 acres with 68% containment.

On Monday, Sequoia National Forest officials took the media on a tour of the Trail of 100 Giants that has been closed due to the fire.

“They are very special trees that mean a lot to people who come from all over the world. This is probably our most visited spot by the public on the entire forest,” said Sequoia National Forest Supervisor Teresa Benson.

The Trail of 100 Giants is typically flooded with tourists to see the giant sequoias that are thousands of years old, but it is closed until the fire is 100% contained.

“Things are changing really rapidly,” said Yosemite National Park botanist Garrett Dickerson. “It has been a build-up and we have kinda reached a tipping point.”

While the sequoias continue to stand strong in the 100 Giants grove, they are not indestructible, especially in areas with extreme fire behavior.

“As resilient and massive and old as they are, they are still made of wood and they still can burn,” said Dickerson. “And it is one, the fire conditions, and two, the fuel load that is around them that is just through the roof.”

In just two years, the Castle Fire, Windy Fire and KNP Complex have impacted over 30 of the state’s 70 groves due to large bark beetle kill, warmer temperatures and the drought.

Two firefighters used thin ropes to climb to the top of one of the sequoias in the 100 Giants grove after the top of it caught flames due to the Windy Fire. The firefighters fought the fire for three days with hoses.

That giant and many of the others in the grove are expected to survive. Officials credit the survival to over a decade of forest management, sprinklers and burn scars.

But officials are pushing for more to be done in the other groves to protect the famous historic trees.

“I consider it to be an emergency situation. We need to look at the groves that still have fuel loading, that haven’t had a fire. What can we do in the groves now?” Benson said.

Land managers from across the state started the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition and have already secured $4 million in funding to tackle the problem. However, they need millions more and full EPA approval to complete the full plan.

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