Updated: September 18, 2021 9:01:55 am
Two wildfires in California – one called the Colony fire and the other called Paradise – are burning through the Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada that is home to some of the largest trees in the world.
Among these trees is the world’s largest tree popularly known as General Sherman, which firefighters are now trying to protect from the blaze. While these sequoia trees are fairly fire-resistant, the “extraordinary intensity” of some of the wildfires can be overwhelming for the trees, a report in the Associated Press said.
How is General Sherman the world’s largest tree?
The General Sherman tree is the world’s largest in terms of volume and exists in the Giant Forest sequoia grove of the national park. As per recent estimates, General Sherman is about 2,200 years old.
It stands at a height of 275 feet (taller than the leaning tower of Pisa) and has a diameter of 36 feet at the base. Even 60 feet above the base, the tree has a diameter of 17.5 feet.
Wildfires at the Sequoia National Park
The National Park Service (NPS) notes that historically, low to moderate severity fires burn every 6 to 35 years in the giant sequoia groves.
Further, occasional patches of higher severity fires have opened up gaps in the forest canopy where seedlings can then grow. Significantly, the park staff has estimated that less than 10 per cent of the large sequoias have died due to low severity and about 34 per cent have died in moderate severity fire areas.
According to NPS, the Castle fire that started in August last year in a remote part of the national forest burned about 171,000 acres including more than 9,530 acres of giant sequoia groves on US Forest Service, National Park Service, State of California, Tulare County and private lands.
Significantly, this burned area represents a third of all sequoia grove area across the Sierra Nevada, the only area in the world where giant sequoias occur naturally, NPS notes.
Giant sequoia trees have existed in the national park for thousands of years and there are an estimated 2,000 such trees in the park. Firefighters are now trying to save the world’s largest tree and some other large trees in the area by wrapping fire-resistant aluminium blankets onto the bases of the trees.
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