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Firefighters continued to fight the wildfire that threatened the largest grove of the world’s largest sequoias in Yosemite National Park on Saturday. The Mariposa Grove, with more than 500 mature giants, has been repeatedly endangered in recent years as the intensity of fires increased.
The grove closed after reports came in from hikers after they spotted smoke from the Washburn Fire near a trail on Thursday. The following day, officials ordered the evacuation of Wawona, California; over 1,500 people left the nearby community and campground.
Nancy Phillipe, a Yosemite fire information spokesperson, reported that as of Saturday morning, no injuries, destroyed structures, or critical damage to the giant sequoias had been reported, according to The Washington Post.
“All the named trees, including the 209-foot Grizzly Giant, […]the Bachelor, and Three Graces, remained safe.” Phillipe added that one of the priorities is to protect the Mariposa Grove and preserve its history.
Sequoias are native to the Sierra Nevada mountain range and can live to be 3,000 years old. These massive trees are too big to be blown over in the wind, and their thick bark and tannins protect the giants against fire.
During the past several summers, increased wildfires have ripped through the western states. Typically, the sequoias withstand frequent fires, but 13 to 19% of all sequoias have perished since 2020. Natural resource experts warn there might be another mass die-off in 2022.
The Washburn Fire is rapidly spreading near the lower portion of the Mariposa Grove. As of 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, the wildfire had burned 1.2 thousand acres, an increase of 487 acres through the day. Hundreds of firefighters worked on the ground to create fire lines using bulldozers, while planes dropped fire retardant to suppress the wildfire, explained Phillipe.
Yosemite National Park crews continue to work to save the giant sequoias while experts investigate the wildfire’s origin. Phillipe says they have ruled out weather as the cause, although the increased incidences of fires are attributed to climate change.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
ABC News: Yosemite wildfire threatens grove of iconic sequoia trees
The Washington Post: Yosemite wildfire threatens over 500 giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove; by Marisa Lati
ABC 30 Action News: Washburn Fire: Yosemite’s Highway 41 entrance closed, 1,190 acres charred; by Brittany Jacob and Nico Payne
Save the Redwoods League: About Giant Sequoia
Featured and Top Image by ogwen Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Scott Ableman’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons license
Second Inset Image by Colorado National Guard Courtesy of DVIDS – Public Domain License