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The KNP fire complex in California’s Sequoia National Park, which was ignited by lightning on September 9, has grown to a whopping 9,365 acres in size with zero-percent containment. Now, it’s inching frighteningly close to the Giant Forest Preserve, home to General Sherman, the world’s largest tree by volume, and one of the great landmarks of SEKI (Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks). And fire crews are taking some unusual steps to protect General Sherman and other nearby mega-trees.
The KNP fire complex is an unholy fusion of two separate forest fires: the Paradise Fire and the Colony Fire. Much of the encroaching fire is fueled on steep, inaccessible terrain, making it difficult for ground crews to make headway. Sequoia National Park remains closed to visitors due to the fires, with parts of nearby Three Rivers evacuated. Kings Canyon National Park, which borders to the north, is still open, though the air quality remains extremely hazardous.
In preparation for the real possibility that the wildfires will reach some of the oldest, largest stands in the park (the KNP fire was less than 3 miles from General Sherman as of September 17), fire crews have been wrapping the “iconic monarch sequoias” with metallic, fire-proof blankets. General Sherman, which is estimated to be between 2300 and 2700 years old and measures 275 feet high and roughly 36 feet in diameter at the base, has also been wrapped. In the last few days, fire crews have reinforced several other structures as well, including the NPS headquarters at Ash Mountain.