Here’s a fun fact coming from someone who once worked at Sequoia National Park: sequoia trees are naturally resistant to fire. It’s been a few years, so this writer doesn’t remember every single detail. But sequoias didn’t become some of the largest, longest-living trees on Earth because they burst into flames at every turn. That said, they are far from invincible. Officials at the park decided it’d be best to help the trees out with some extra insulation.
Sequoia National Park is intervening this way for the sake of trees like General Sherman. It is currently the oldest known single-stemmed tree on the planet, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 years old. It also happens to be one of the most visited destinations in the national park. One can see how preserving trees like it and others in the Giant Forest are a priority at Sequoia right now.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, crews began to wrap the trees in aluminum. It’s a bit more industrial than your typical Reynolds Wrap, but aluminum foil is aluminum foil at the end of the day.
“The Giant Forest is by far the most famous part of the park. It’s the part of the park that every person who comes here wants to visit. We want to give the grove every shot we can for it to come through as unscathed as possible,” a spokesman for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks said, per the San Francisco Chronicle.
The reason for all of this preemptive action is two uncontained wildfires that are currently bearing down on the parks. The Colony Fire is coming from the north and the Paradise Fire from the south. It’s a scary time for both the parks and their surrounding communities.
Sequoia Trees and Their Love-Hate Relationship With Fire
As previously stated, sequoia trees boast two-foot thick bark that helps ward off any threat of fire. The trees are also entirely dependent on fire for the survival of their genus. As the Chronicle reports, they need the heat from wildfires to open up their cones, releasing their seeds.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking the trees at Sequoia National Park always survive these wildfires. They are susceptible to extreme temperatures. Last year alone, some of the biggest trees in the world died in droves.
The Castle Fire tore through the wooded areas of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that it killed anywhere from 7 to 10,000 sequoias. Among them was King Arthur, the ninth-largest tree in the world at the time.
To put all of this into perspective, the western-facing slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range are the only place on Earth where sequoia trees naturally occur. So wrap those beauties in as much foil as it takes, officials. More importantly, stay safe.