KNP Complex fire burns within mile of Giant Forest, threatening towering Sequoia preserve
Extensive growth of the KNP Complex fire tearing through Sequoia National Park prompted evacuations for portions of the foothills community of Three Rivers, and it has risen to a top firefighting priority as containment remained elusive.
Composed of the lightning-sparked Paradise and Colony fires, which ignited Thursday amid regional thunderstorms, the blaze had ballooned to 7,039 acres with 0% containment by Wednesday.
As it exploded rapidly through drought-stricken, bug-killed trees, the fire forced the closure of Sequoia National Park and the evacuation of employees living within it. Areas of Three Rivers not under mandatory evacuation are under warning. The adjoining Kings Canyon National Park remains open.
The flames on Wednesday were still about a mile from the famed Giant Forest, the largest concentration of towering giant sequoias in the park and home to the 275-foot General Sherman tree — considered the world’s largest tree by volume, according to fire officials.
Photos of the Windy fire near the Tule River Reservation in the Sequoia National Forest as crews from the Sierra Cobras and Roosevelt Hotshots fight it.
Firefighters were on high alert, stationed strategically to monitor the groves, said Mark Ruggiero, a spokesperson for the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. “We have a lot of crews up there … and we’re watching closely,” Ruggiero said.
Meanwhile, the Windy fire burning to the south, in Sierra National Forest, had also grown overnight — to just over 2,200 acres with no containment — and appeared to be burning with low intensity in a grove of the towering trees along the northwestern portion of the fire, according to fire officials.
The fire ignited Thursday in the Tule River Indian Reservation before pushing into the national forest, and by the beginning of this week had crept into the Peyrone sequoia grove, within the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
Crews have attempted to survey the grove — located on the northern perimeter of the blaze — for potential damage, but their location on steep, inaccessible terrain has stymied a close look, fire spokesperson Thanh Nguyen said Wednesday.
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