Firefighters Battle Latest Yosemite Wildfire to Protect Giant Sequoias

Firefighters are "proactively protecting" the giant sequoias with a ground-based sprinkler system.

Smoke rises up through sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park Photo: Courtesy of Anadolu Agency/ Getty

Firefighters fought Monday to contain a wildfire in Yosemite National Park and protect the park's famous giant sequoia trees.

Officials were battling to fight the Washburn Fire, which was first reported on July 7 near the Washburn Trail near the Mariposa Grove. By Monday, it had grown to more than 2,300 acres with 0% contained, according to the Yosemite Fire and Aviation Management. More than 500 firefighters have so far been assigned to the fire.

Firefighters are “proactively protecting” the giant sequoias — including at least one that is 3,000 years old — with a ground-based sprinkler system, which increases humidity near the trees, according to the fire management group. Firefighters did not wrap the trees in a protective covering like they did last year when a wildfire ravaged Sequoia National Park.

“Yosemite’s fire management program has for many years utilized a wide variety of methods to reduce the fuels and minimize the risk of fire to the over 500 mature giant sequoias as well as the entire National Park,” the Yosemite Fire and Aviation Management wrote in a statement.

Currently, the fire is burning in an area of “difficult terrain” and dead and fallen trees are complicating matters. In total, about 1,600 people have been forced to evacuate the adjacent community of Wawona as well as the Wawona Hotel and campground, Reuters reported.

So far, none of Yosemite's landmark sequoias have been lost, Park Service spokesperson Nancy Phillipe told Reuters.

"We're feeling confident of the plan we have in place today," Phillipe said.

The National Park Service has closed the Mariposa Grove and noted “smoky conditions are likely in the Wawona area and possible elsewhere in the park.” But while parts of Yosemite National Park are closed, others remain open, including the famous Yosemite Valley.


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