(Los Angeles) Hundreds of firefighters were fighting a violent wildfire on Monday that threatens the emblematic giant sequoias of the prestigious park of Yosemite, in northern California.
The fire, which started Thursday for an as-yet-undetermined reason, reached the Mariposa Grove area, the park’s most prized area because it contains hundreds of the world’s tallest redwoods, authorities said.
None of these venerable trees, however, were affected by the flames.
Initially considered out of control, the forest fire was 25% contained Monday afternoon, after covering some 950 hectares of vegetation, according to the latest report.
The weather is not helping: the weather should remain hot and dry for the next few days.
“We are doing everything we can to put it out, we are using aerial resources, tanker planes and helicopters” in addition to ground teams, Nancy Phillipe, a spokeswoman for the police, told AFP. information on the fires in Yosemite.
Some 545 firefighters are now facing the blaze.
This area of Yosemite Park has been largely redeveloped and reopened in 2018.
Yosemite, prized by rock climbing enthusiasts for its majestic cliffs, is one of the best-known great American parks in the world.
The small town of Wawona, which is home to several hotels welcoming the many tourists who come to admire its mountainous landscapes and its famous waterfalls, has been under evacuation order for several days.
One of the teams prepares the “Grizzly Giant” — the park’s most famous and spectacular giant sequoia — for the approaching flames by continuously watering it.
“From the top of its 209 feet [64 m]it is the second largest in Yosemite, ”says the park, which broadcasts the measures taken to protect it on social networks.
These precautions, combined with voluntary fire starts to prepare the park, ensure “the best possible protection for the trees”, Nancy Phillipe told AFP.
Practiced in an ancestral way by the indigenous tribes of the region, controlled fires are intended to clear up the undergrowth by consuming brush and dead trunks fallen to the ground, all fuels that can fuel the intensity of forest fires.
Low-intensity fires are generally not enough to harm the giant sequoias, which are naturally adapted to these disasters with their very thick bark and first branches that can grow thirty meters high, beyond the reach of the flames.
On the contrary, these sequoias need fires to reproduce: the heat of the flames makes the cones that have fallen to the ground burst like popcorn to release hundreds of seeds.
These giants, which grow only in California, are however not adapted to the more intense fires which have tended to break out in recent years due to climate change.
In September 2021, as fires scorched forests in the region, rescuers wrapped giant sequoias in fireproof blankets, including “General Sherman”, considered the largest tree in the world at 83 meters high. .
California, in the grip of a chronic drought which reached records this year, suffered a heat wave.
The American West has already experienced forest fires of exceptional magnitude and intensity in recent years, with a very marked lengthening of the fire season.
“It’s only the beginning of July,” recalled Nancy Phillipe. “Every year we say to ourselves ‘wow, the season [des incendies] going to be long,” and the seasons are getting longer and longer. »