Firefighters gain ground in the fight to protect Yosemite’s giant sequoias. But the weather doesn’t matter – Boston News, Weather, Sports

(CNN) – Wed giant sequoias Under the threat of a wildfire spreading through California’s Yosemite National Park, firefighters are racing to protect them and a nearby community as drier, hotter weather impacts the region.

When fighting the Washburn firewhich is 22% contained and has charred at least 2,720 acres accordingly on the brand management website InciWeb.

More than 500 firefighters are on the scene, some using bulldozers to clear lines while others backfiring — a preventive controlled combustion of scrub and dead wood to starve the fire of combustible material – to protect the park and its mariposa grove, home to hundreds of giant sequoias.

State Highway 41 is being used to stop the fire from advancing west, with firefighters cutting in the bush to minimize the chance of the fire spreading. Such efforts “are working very well right now,” said Matt Ahearn, operations section chief at California Interagency Incident Management Team 13.

The eastern portion of the fire is causing the most concern with point fires that are intense but slow moving, Ahearn said.

“If you look at our progress maps, this fire isn’t moving fast at all,” he said. “What it does is generate extreme heat and just sit there and sway and just pump out smoke, creating those big plumes of smoke that you see from many miles away.”

Ahearn said the firefighting plan is going well. The fire remains on the outskirts of Mariposa Grove and is not expected to advance any further, he said.

However, the effort will be complicated by an expected run of dry, hot weather that may fuel the fire. High temperatures in the region are expected to reach into the 90s Fahrenheit with no precipitation forecast, according to the National Weather Service.

Sprinkler system around Grizzly Giant Sequoia

To forestall the spread of the fire, which was discovered July 7 near the park’s Washburn Trail and doubled over the weekend, planes are being used to blanket areas with fire-retardant chemicals.

And firefighters have installed a sprinkler system to wet the ground around the 209-foot-tall Grizzly Giant Sequoia, with water from a small basin feeding sprinklers placed near the tree trunk, according to footage from Yosemite Fire and Aviation Management demonstrate.

“We’re trying to give him really preventative first aid and to make sure that when the fire — when the fire — gets here, that tree is protected,” said Garrett Dickman, a forest ecologist with the National Park Service Yosemite.

Though giant sequoias are resilient and can withstand some wildfire, blazes that big can be too much, Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman told CNN.

“Fire is important, in fact for giant sequoias it is crucial that the seeds come out of the cones to regenerate the soil and provide habitat for animals. … But it’s these high-intensity fires that are doing the damage,” he said.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but park manager Cicely Muldoon said on Monday: “There was no lightning that day so it is a man-made fire and it is being investigated.”

In the northwest, campgrounds and residents of the Wawona community were forced to abandon due to their proximity to the fires and one mandatory evacuation order remains in effect. The south entrance to Yosemite has been closed.

Among the threatened buildings is the Wawona Hotel, the park’s oldest hotel, established in 1856. Fire safety teams have also wrapped the historic building Galen Clark Cabin in protective film, said Gediman.

Officials said Monday residents would be can return when the fire hazard has been averted and when the danger of dead trees falling onto roads has been averted.

“100 percent suppression, we’re deleting this one,” Chief of Operations Josh Boehm told residents. “We’re working day and night to get you and our firefighters home safely.”

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Nate Jones

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