Firefighters fighting to protect the world’s largest tree from forest fires that devastate the parched United States said Friday they were optimistic it can be saved.
Flames creep closer to the majestic General Sherman and other giant sequoias as man-made climate change aggravates the terrifying fire season in California.
“We have hundreds of firefighters there who do their best and take special care,” said Mark Garrett, communications officer for the region’s fire department, told AFP about the operation in Sequoia National Park.
The crews are fighting the spreading fires in Paradise and Colony, which have devoured 4,600 hectares (11,400 acres) of forest since they were struck by lightning a week ago.
The flames threaten the giant forest, a grove with around 2,000 sequoias, which includes five of the largest trees in the world – some up to 3,000 years old.
The tallest of them all, General Sherman, is 83 meters (275 feet) tall.
On Thursday, General Sherman was wrapped in fireproof blankets – aluminum foil that was supposed to protect his huge trunk from the worst of the flames.
On Friday, managers felt like they had the upper hand, thanks in part to clearing underbrush and controlled burns that starve the fire.
“I think the hardest part is the terrain here,” said Garrett.
But “we didn’t see explosive fire behavior; it really slowed down and gave us a chance to get ahead of it.”
Around 600 soldiers are involved in the fight.
“We have people up in the giant forest who protect structures and prepare everything.
“The fact is, they’ve been prescribed to burn for the past 25 or 30 years, so it’s really prepared.”
Millions of acres of California forests burned down this year’s fierce fire season.
Scientists say global warming, fueled by the unchecked use of fossil fuels, is making the area increasingly vulnerable to larger and more devastating forest fires.
The huge trees of the giant forest are a big tourist magnet, attracting visitors from all over the world to admire their imposing height and extraordinary size.
While they’re not the tallest trees – California sequoias can grow up to 300 feet – the giant sequoias are the largest by volume.
Smaller fires generally do not harm the sequoia trees, which are protected by thick bark and often have branches only 30 meters above the ground.
But the bigger, hotter flames ravaging the western United States are dangerous to them because they climb higher into the trunks and treetops.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)