Will Yosemite's Sequoias Burn?

Growing fire threatens well-known grove

Jul 31, 2014
Outside Magazine

If there's a lot of dead wood sitting around a sequoia grove, a fire would cause more damage. But even then it's not a death sentence for our ancient giants.    Bartfett/Thinkstock

Central California's El Portal fire has put about 50 homes at risk (one man even resorted to chopping up his deck to save his ranch). But there's another "structure" in danger: the Merced Grove of giant sequoias. This group of ancient trees sits in the western part of Yosemite, and as the fire grew during the day Wednesday, closing roads within the park, some were sweating the possibility of flames reaching the grove.

Luckily, more than 800 firefighters made good progress Wednesday night. The most recent reports say the fire is about 34 percent contained and no longer "an imminent threat" to the sequoias, according to park spokesperson Scott Gediman. Still, if the fire makes a significant surge, it could threaten the trees once again, he told the Associated Press. Efforts to further contain the flames continue as low humidity and thunderstorms will likely keep the fire going strong.

But don't panic. The idea of fire reaching these flammable natural wonders is scary, but the threat is not as bad as you might think. As ecologist Stephen C. Sillet told National Geographic during last year's wildfire season, it's not going to completely destroy the forest. Giant sequoias are quite flame resistant because their bark is so fibrous, and though they could be somewhat damaged in a fire, Sillett assured us that "the big trees are going to be fine."

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