44 Sequoias Lost in Windy Wildfire as Firefighters Attempt to Save Forest

by Shelby Scott

Wildfires ignited weeks ago continue to ravage areas of the Western United States as we head into fall. Earlier last month, fire crews worked to protect the famed Lake Tahoe from the worst ravages of the Caldor Fire. Now, as the Caldor Fire sees more than 90% containment, fire crews seek to protect other iconic natural treasures.

For several weeks, California’s giant sequoia trees have been under threat of nearing wildfires. This week, as the Windy Fire continues to scourge the area, early surveys record a total of 44 sequoia fatalities. Additionally, the rapidly burning blaze has plowed through almost a dozen of the sequoia’s groves. The most notable grove includes the world-famous Trail of 100 Giants.

In response to the relentless blaze, and in efforts to protect our nation’s sequoias, fire crews are enacting what Yahoo termed a “Hail Mary.”

Essentially, firefighters have hit their last-ditch effort to save as many of the U.S.’s legendary trees as possible.

The Hail Mary attempt to save the trees sees fire crews enacting a number of momentous efforts. These include scaling to the treetops to soak the scorching crowns of the sequoia trees. They’ve also begun wrapping the trunks in fire-resistant materials, and aerially dropping fire-retardant gel on the flames. Unfortunately, however, the news outlet reports the exhaustive efforts have only saved a handful of the state’s hundreds of ancient sequoias.

Sequioas Succumb to Growing Wildfire Intensity

Fire crews work tirelessly to protect as many of CA’s giant sequoias as possible. Now, though, growing wildfire frequency and intensity renders their work almost meaningless.

As to the ongoing “Hail Mary” efforts, Garrett Dickman, a botanist with Yosemite National Park, detailed the direness of the ancient trees’ situation.

“Not to diminish the heroism of the firefighters,” Dickman began, Bbut it’s only a couple of individual trees that we’re saving when we need to be thinking of the whole population.”

The botanist explained that some of the giant trees’ groves have seen active forest management courtesy of controlled burns. However, many of the sequoias are now at a disadvantage as their groves have not been maintained. The controlled burns mean much of the fuel igniting current wildfires is lacking in those maintained groves. On the other hand, groves that have not seen controlled burns suffer far greater consequences.

Dickman also emphasized that our nation’s ancient giants are not meant to endure such extreme wildfires. The botanist stated, “This is a fire-resistant species,” due to its sheer height and thick bark. Although, the trees won’t survive wildfires as strong as we’ve seen lately for much longer.

“If anything can take the punch,” he explained, “it’s giant sequoias.” Although, he continued, claiming “this punch is way too big and it’s hitting way too hard.” He explained that, had wildfires historically burned as fast, hot, and long as current wildifires, “Sequoias wouldn’t be on the landscape.”

So, as wildfire season hopefully soon approaches an end, we can only hope next year, crews can better adapt to the interference of increasing climate change.