Firefighters were working to ensure that California’s famed giant sequoias were protected as a wildfire in the state continued to burn and threaten the land on which the majestic trees stand.
The Rough Fire has grown to more than 100,000 acres in Central California, fire officials said in a Friday morning update.
Andy Isolano, a Clovis Fire Department spokesman, told the Associated Press that crews dealing with the blaze had taken steps to protect Grant Grove, home to the General Grant tree, which was designated as the Nation’s Christmas Tree nearly a century ago.
Those precautions included sprinklers and bulldozed lines, according to the AP.
The grove, which was closed to visitors earlier this week, has been impacted by smoke, but not flames, fire spokesman Jim Schwarber told The Post on Friday. However, Schwarber noted, the centuries-old trees in the grove have survived past fires and have natural defenses for situations like these.
“The trees there are … old and most of them have some evidence of previous fire activity during their lifetimes,” he said.
The giant sequoias, some of which stand more than 200 feet tall and are likely more than 1,600 years old, are among the largest and oldest trees on Earth.
Isolano, the Clovis Fire spokesman, told the Fresno Bee that officials are also monitoring the Converse Basin,where there are about 60 giant sequoias, including the Boole Tree — the sixth-largest in the world.
“It’s not like you can put a blanket over it,” Isolano said of the Boole. “And those old trees have been through fires before.
“But this is a national monument. It can’t be replaced. So we are being extra, extra careful.”
This extra care includes installing a dozen sprinklers around the Boole. The sprinklers are manually operated, Isolano said. Firefighters are using them to wet the tree in anticipation of the fire, as drought conditions have weakened it over the last few years. If flames bear down on the grove, firefighters will switch on the sprinklers — and leave them on — to try and help the tree’s natural defenses.
Mounting sprinklers around historic trees is a common practice during fires, Isolano said.
Schwarber explained the conditions were extremely dry in the forest right now; temperatures are hot and the humidity is low. Basically, he said, that means the fires are burning more intensely than usual; the conditions, he said, are “unprecedented.”
— USFS Fire-California (@R5_Fire_News) September 11, 2015
— Joe Moeller (@joemoeller44) September 10, 2015