Washburn Firefighters Battle Dry Conditions and Difficult Terrain to Save Yosemite Sequoia Forest

The largest and most famous sequoia grove in Yosemite National Park was still under threat from a wildfire on Sunday afternoon, as the hot weather and rocky terrain made it impossible to put out the flames.

Hundreds of mature sequoias, including the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant, have been destroyed by the Washburn Fire in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove. The National Wildfire Coordinating Group said that the fire had grown to 2,000 acres by Sunday evening, up from the 466 acres it had on Friday.

It was also necessary to evacuate residents of the nearby town of Wawona on Friday night due to the Washburn Fire, which was threatening the little village.

NPS reported that the fire was still 100 percent uncontained as of Sunday afternoon. A moderate to heavy smog cloud is expected to blanket Yosemite on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Hanford, California.

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To make matters worse, in addition to the already difficult terrain and climate, firefighters had to deal with a “major safety hazard,” according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, as they battled through increasingly hot and dry conditions on Sunday.

According to the National Parks Service, temperatures are forecast to remain high and dry throughout the week, with light winds. The National Park Service expects the fire activities to continue actively spreading over the next three days and beyond, as they have in the past.

According to Yosemite fire spokesman Nancy Phillipe, firefighters are employing “every strategy imaginable” to combat the blaze. Fire retardant droplets and bulldozers to establish fire lines, an uncommon strategy in a remote area like Yosemite, were among the measures taken.

To safeguard Wawona, the bulldozers would be employed mostly to lay fire lines, she said.

It was always considered that giant sequoias were impervious to fires, but drought and climate change have made them more vulnerable.

The Mariposa Grove was decimated by a windstorm last year, including the deaths of 15 enormous sequoias.

According to the National Park Service, the Mariposa Grove has a long history of managed burning, and “studies have demonstrated that these efforts decrease the effects of a high-severity unwanted fire.”

According to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, the cause of the blaze has yet to be determined.

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