A wildfire burning through thick forests shuttered Yosemite National Park’s largest grove of iconic giant sequoia trees over the weekend and once again endangered some of the world’s largest trees.
The threat of flames from the Washburn Fire led to the closing of the grove Friday and to the evacuation of hundreds of people nearby in the community of Wawona, according to the National Park Service. No injuries were reported.
The National Weather Service in Hanford, California, forecast heavy smoke from the Washburn fire impacting Yosemite on Saturday. Park cameras showed thick smoke hanging in the air around some of the park’s most iconic views.
Meanwhile, crews were sent to wrap the trees’ hulking trunks with fire-resistant foil to help protect them from the blaze, said Nancy Phillipe, a Yosemite fire information spokesperson. There were no reports of severe damaged to any of the named giant sequoia trees, including the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant.
After it was first reported Thursday, the fire had burned through about 703 acres or over one square mile by Saturday morning. While the fire grew overnight Friday, it did not spread to any new areas, and much of the park remained open aside from the grove.
‘A TIPPING POINT’:Some of world’s largest trees threatened by fires in the Sierra Nevada
Nestled in the southern part of Yosemite is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the largest sequoia grove in the park, according to the National Park Service. The grove is home to over 500 mature giant sequoias.
Friday photos from inside the grove showed smoke, flames and a firefighter in the shadow of a massive tree working to prevent the flames from spreading.
Giant sequoias were once considered largely impervious to fires but have become increasingly vulnerable in the face of intense fires fueled by drought and climate change.
The Washburn fire is only the latest to threaten the beloved trees. Last year, the KNP Complex, a pair of lightning-sparked wildfires in California’s Sierra Nevada, shuttered Sequoia National Park and threatened its gigantic trees. In the past two years, lightning-sparked wildfires have killed up to a fifth of the estimated 75,000 large sequoias.
‘HEALING FOR OUR ANCESTORS’:Native tribal group reclaims California redwood forest
A windstorm last year toppled 15 giant sequoias in the Mariposa Grove.
The cause of the Washburn fire is still under investigation and hundreds of firefighters, two helicopters and an air tanker fought to control the flames Friday, Phillipe said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Contact News Now Reporter Christine Fernando at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.