Yosemite wildfire is growing, but giant sequoias remain protected

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA. — A wildfire at the edge of a grove of California giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park grew overnight but remained partially contained on Tuesday.

The 6 day old fire It was not expected to make a significant foray into the famous Mariposa Grove, an official said at a community meeting Monday night.

“Overall, it’s in a very good place,” said Matt Ahearn, the incident management team’s tactical operations manager.

Yosemite forest ecologist and firefighter Garrett Dickman was also optimistic in an interview with SFGATE.com after surveying the western part of the grove on Sunday.

“I’ve walked through all the burning bits and seen no mortality. … Some of the trees had some scorch marks, but the extent of the scorch was well within their ability to handle,” Dickman said.


The Washburn fire at the south end of the park covered about 5 square miles (13 square kilometers) but was still 22% contained, according to an incident update Tuesday morning.

The fire has been burning since Thursday when visitors reported smoke near the Washburn Trail in the Mariposa Grove area. a stand of hundreds of iconic trees this includes the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant.

The next day, hundreds of visitors and residents were evacuated from the nearby community of Wawona, but the rest of Yosemite has remained open.

Sprinklers were installed in the grove to protect the mature trees and a building protection team of firefighters prepared defenses for Wawona.

The fire has burned generally to the north and east, away from the grove. Conditions were hot and dry but the wind was light.


Ahearn, the commander of tactical operations, described the extensive work firefighters did to cut off the fire’s movements in difficult terrain.

“We’re very confident with the plan, but we’re being challenged with the plan,” he said. “All crews are fully engaged, fully supporting them and fighting the fire very aggressively.”

Ahearn expressed optimism about protecting the famous grove from the fire.

“It’s out on the outside edge of Mariposa Gove,” Ahearn said. “It retreated a little, but it didn’t retreat into the grove intensely.”

Ahearn said firefighters cleared around the tree roots.

“From where we are right now, we don’t see any advancing fire,” he said.

Firefighters hand cut a containment line across the entire northern edge of Mariposa Grove, he said.

Firefighters considered the possibility that the flames could spread further east and south, spanning one end of the grove.


The cause of the fire was further investigated, but authorities consider it man-made as there was no apparent natural spark

Native to only about 70 groves along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, the giant sequoias were once considered resilient to flame but have become increasingly vulnerable as wildfires fueled by an accumulation of undergrowth from a century of firefighting and the Effects of drought exacerbated by climate changehave become more intense and destructive.

Wildfires triggered by lightning have killed up to a fifth of the estimated 75,000 great sequoias in the last two years, which are the largest trees by volume and a major draw for tourists.

A violent storm swept through the grove more than a year ago, toppling 15 giant sequoias along with countless other trees.


The fallen trees, in addition to large numbers of pine trees killed by bark beetles, provided ample fuel for the blazes.

In Utah, smoke and ash blew into Salt Lake City from a growing wildfire in rural Tooele County on Saturday. As of Monday night, the fire in Jacob City had grown to 6.4 square miles (16.6 square kilometers) with 19% containment, officials said.

Elsewhere in Utah, firefighters battling high winds battled the 15.9-square-mile (41-square-kilometer) Halfway Hill Fire in Filmore. Police on Saturday arrested four men who investigators said exited a campfire that started the blaze.

So far in 2022, over 35,000 wildfires across the U.S. have burned nearly 4.7 million acres (1.9 million hectares), according to the National Interagency Fire Center, well above the average for both wildfires and acres burned.

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https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/07/13/yosemite-wildfire-grows-but-giant-sequoias-remain-protected/ Yosemite wildfire is growing, but giant sequoias remain protected

Sarah Y. Kim

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