Yosemite National Park fire: Californian blaze threatens famous sequoia trees

Fires are edging close to Mariposa Grove, home to 500 giant trees

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Wildfires are once again sweeping the Californian landscape and are threatening to engulf the ancient sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park.

The Washburn fire that started last Thursday has doubled in size over the past 24 hours, and is now burning across an estimated 645 hectares of terrain.

The official Yosemite website warns visitors of several alerts and road closures, and to expect smoky air and hazy conditions. Firefighters have so far evacuated campers and residents of the Wawona community from around Mariposa Grove, which is also the permanent home of 500 giant sequoia trees.

Slow-growing giant sequoias can reach more than 80 metres in height, making them some of the largest-known trees on the planet. The second-largest specimen in Mariposa Grove is called Grizzly Giant. It stands 63 metres high and is 7.8 metres around the base. Thought to be more than 3,000 years old, it highlights the remarkable longevity of the species, putting sequoias among the oldest living things on Earth.

Showing the scale of a sequioa tree, a carriage and six horses stand on the fallen Monarch tree, in this undated photograph taken at Yosemite National Park. Photo: National Parks Service

To help protect the trees, the Yosemite fire and aviation management department has positioned sprinklers around the grove to increase humidity, and has removed all potential fuels. This is in a bid to prevent a repeat of the fires of 2021, that destroyed thousands of ancient sequoias, where an estimated 19 per cent of the world's 75,000 sequoias were destroyed.

These vast redwoods were once found all along the Pacific coast of North America, but now survive only in isolated pockets in California.

As well as being home to these ancient trees, the Mariposa Grove is also famous for being the first natural area to be protected for “public use, resort, and recreation” by then US president Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

An undated photograph of a man driving his pick-up truck through the Wawona tunnel tree in Yosemite National Park. Photo National Park Service

The fires ranging across Yosemite are in contrast to the recent heavy rains experienced in the Yellowstone National Park, which caused widespread flooding and landslides that cut off large sections of the park.

Updated: July 14, 2022, 9:39 AM