The California wildfires are far from over. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), more than 10,500 personnel are still assigned to 13 large active wildfires that have burned more than 2.26 million acres of land.
The fires are now burning at higher elevations than ever before, which has exposed an additional 31,400 square miles of U.S. forests. Experts say that California’s warming climate is driving this extreme behavior.
John Abatzoglou, an associate professor of climatology at UC Merced, explained, “There’s a good relationship between how warm and dry the vegetation is across the broader Sierra and just how high those fires can carry up into these montane systems.”
Now, the wildfires are threatening some of the world’s largest trees.
Burning in Sequoia National Park
Lightning ignited the KNP Complex fire and started burning in the Sequoia National Park on September 9th. The fire has burned more than 7,000 acres with 0% containment. It is currently about a mile away from the Giant Forest, home to the largest tree on Earth by volume. The General Sherman tree has been alive for more than 2,300 years.
All employees and residents of the eastern part of the town have been evacuated from the park. Still, efforts to contain the fire are being hampered by smoke, which makes aerial drops more difficult due to reduced visibility. Access on the ground is also being hampered by the flames burning in steep and rugged terrain.
Sequoia National Park is closed to the public while nearby Kings Canyon National Park remains open, compromising air quality.
While the Dixie fire –– California’s second-largest wildfire ever that has burned over 960,470 acres –– is more than 86% contained, other fires continue to burn and cause destruction.
The Caldor fire, which has been active for more than a month and has burned around 219,267 acres, is 71% contained. The Hopkins fire, which has burned more than 257 Acres, is 95% contained, while the Bridge fire is now 100% contained.