Wildfires merge before reaching edge of Sequoia National Park

·2 min read

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.

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A U.S. Forest Service vehicle at the Sequoia National Park historic park entrance sign, which has been wrapped in fire-resistant foil along Generals Highway. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

What's happening: Park officials said in a statement just after 1.a.m. Sunday ET that the blaze had reached the grouping of sequoias known as the "Four Guardsmen," which mark the entrance to the Giant Forest.

  • But the statement from the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks added that "fuel removal efforts by firefighters, combined with structure wrap applied by crews to the base of the iconic sequoia trees, successfully protected these national treasures."

Threat level: The KNP Complex fire was expected to remain active throughout the night, per InciWeb. A red flag warning was in place through Sunday.

  • "Crews are preparing for changes and possible significant increases in fire activity," according to a statement from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks earlier Saturday.

Zoom in: Lightning ignited both the Paradise and Colony Fires on Sept. 10.

  • John Wallace, an operations chief with the incident command team in charge of battling the wildfire, confirmed in a live-streamed update Saturday that "we now have one fire that grew together yesterday."

  • The blaze had burned across 17,857 acres and was 0% contained as of Saturday, per the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Zoom out: California has this year been hammered by multiple large wildfires, and this mega-blaze is among 10 large fires burning in the state. 73 large blazes are burning across the U.S., according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

  • A UN report found last month that there's an "unequivocal" connection between human-caused global warming and extreme weather events.

Flashback: Last year's Castle Fire that raged across the Sierra Nevada destroyed 10% to 14% of Earth's mature redwood trees, a draft report from National Park Service scientists found in June.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details on the fire and further context.

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