Firefighters in California are continuing to battle a wildfire that is threatening to destroy or damage giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park.
Campers and residents have been evacuated from the area, the Associated Press reports.
“Today, it’s actually the smokiest that we’ve seen,” said Nancy Phillipe, a Yosemite fire information spokesperson, on Sunday. “Up until this morning, the park has not been in that unhealthy category, but that is where we are now,” she added.
Officials say more than 500 giant sequoias in the Mariposa Grove, including the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant tree, are near the fires. So far, no severe damage has been reported.
Firefighters are using a sprinkler system to keep the tree trunks in the grove moist. Previously, officials believed the trees were impervious to wildfires, but in recent years the sequoias have become more vulnerable because of undergrowth and drought conditions.
On Sunday, the blaze grew to about 2.5 square miles with no containment.
In the past two years, wildfires started by lightning strikes have killed up to a fifth of the roughly 75,000 giant sequoias in the area. Also, more than a year ago, a windstorm toppled 15 of the iconic trees in the grove.
It’s unclear how the latest fire near the park’s Washburn Trail started.
The Yosemite fire, which broke out on July 4, and the Electra Fire have been mostly contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
In Utah, the Jacob City Fire has grown up to 5.9 square miles with no containment, while firefighters are also battling a 12.4 square mile fire in Filmore. That fire, the Halfway Hill Fire, was ignited when four men abandoned a campfire in the area. They have since been arrested.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, more than 35,000 wildfires this year have burned some 4.7 million acres in the U.S.
Photo courtesy: Drahomir Posteby Mach/Unsplash
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.