3,000 Year Old Trees In Danger as Wildfire Rages in Sequoia National Park

Early this morning, the southern California sky was lit with an eerie orange-red glow as wildfires burned bright. The sound of helicopters whirred up above as 1,200 firemen tirelessly fought the flames. $4.2 million have already been spent on containing the fire, but the situation grows more urgent the longer it is left unchecked.

As of Monday morning, this fire was only 10% contained.

A fire rages in a forest.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Dubbed the ‘Shirley Fire’, some 2,200 acres of flames are burning in Kern County, CA as well as in and around the Sequoia National Forest. This national park houses some of the world’s largest and oldest trees, with some stretching over 250 feet into the air, and many growing to over 25 feet wide.

Sequoia trees are frequently over 3,000 years old – and although the trees have adapted to withstand flames, prolonged exposure to extreme heat can cause lasting damage.

If these trees burn down, we will not see them again for thousands of years.

A giant sequoia tree damaged in a wildfire.
Credit: Matthew Fern via Flickr

Fires can be beneficial in making room for new plants to grow, cleaning the forest floor and, when they are controlled, helping to prevent larger fires by burning kindling before larger fires do. However, free-burning fires pose hazards to both human health and environmental welfare.

The challenges to fighting this fire come from ever-changing winds, which fan the flames, making the blaze harder to contain.  Evacuations have been ordered for between 500 and 1,000 homes.

A firefighter gets up close to the heat. Credit: tpsdave via pixabay

A firefighter gets up close to the heat.
Credit: tpsdave via pixabay

Forest fires can be caused by lightning strikes, arsonists, or even cigarettes, but there is no word yet on how this fire started. However, its spread is due to a combination of unusually high temperatures, dry winds, a historic drought, and an ample presence of dry bushes that serve as tinder that feed the flames.

This fire comes as a continuation of an unusually bad fire season, and climate conditions could be to blame. Unfortunately, this deadly fire is part of a larger pattern; over 660 wildfires have broken out across California since the start of this year, three times the typical average according to the Guardian.

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-The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team

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This entry was posted in Awareness, Climate Change, Drought, Fire, General, When Weather Attacks.
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