Firefighters battle hard to protect iconic sequoias from massive Washburn fire

Firefighting crews fought an intense battle Monday, July 11, as the massive Washburn fire burned at the edges of Yosemite National Park’s largest grove of ancient sequoia trees.

The fire, which was first reported on July 7, more than doubled in size over the weekend. It was near the park’s Mariposa Grove, home to 500 mature sequoias, including the Grizzly Giant – a 209-foot behemoth estimated to be about 3,000 years old.

“We really don’t want to leave this one to chance, because this really is such an iconic tree,” forest ecologist Garrett Dickman said in a video update, where firefighters were seen spraying water around the base of the Grizzly Giant.

Jay C. Nichols, a spokesperson for the interagency fire response team told NBC News that the crews are removing fuel and putting in sprinklers to change the humidity around the base of the trees.

Fortunately, there have been no reports of severe damage to any named trees, including the ancient tree. However, the rest of the sprawling California park remain closed, as heavy smoke covered scenic vistas and created unhealthy air quality.

Yosemite National Park Superintendent Cicely Muldoon said there was close to 700 personnel assigned to the blaze as of Monday night.

“We’re attacking it in every possible way: a lot of aircraft, a lot of hand lines, a lot of back burning,” she added.

The fire reached 3,221 acres on Tuesday morning, July 12.

Washburn fire caused by humans

Muldoon declared at a community meeting Monday night that Washburn Fire was caused by humans.


“As you all know there was no lightning on that day so it is a human start,” Muldoon said. “It is still under investigation. That’s all I can say about that right now. We’re looking at that really hard.”

Deputy Operations Chief for Team 13 Matt Ahearn said the fire threat to the Fish Camp community is now low.

“We’re feeling comfortable right now, but we still have a lot of work to do. We still have days worth of going in and cleaning out these downed trees, removing the heat from the edge. There are still pockets of unburned fuel in the interior,” he said.

Ahearn also stated that a lot of steps have been taken to protect the community of Wawona and structures within the area. People at the community, which is surrounded by parkland, were ordered to leave late Friday, July 8. Also, 600 to 700 people staying at the Wawona campground in tents, cabins and a historic hotel were ordered to evacuate.

Meanwhile, a federal judge halted earlier this month the tree thinning and removal projects in Yosemite after the environmental non-profit Earth Institute filed a lawsuit against the park. The paused plan would have culled trees less than 20 inches in diameter that were dead and downed.

Kelly Martin, former chief of fire and aviation management at Yosemite, argued that if the fire was able to achieve that desired mosaic on this landscape – leaving some patches unburned while opening parts of the thick forest canopy to biodiversity – it will have a positive impact.

“Nature has a way of understanding and doing this work that’s been going on for centuries. When you see it on the landscape it is a sight to behold when it comes back the following year,” Martin said. (Related: Climate changes don’t have to be looked at as negative: Let’s not discount Mother Nature and her ability to heal the Earth.)

Visit for more news related to the environment.

Watch the below video that talks about the Yosemite wildfire that threatens the world’s largest sequoias.

This video is from the High Hopes channel on

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National park turtles loaded with now-banned toxins, demonstrating how the long life of chemical exposure can poison the environment.

Visitors flock to Yellowstone as some national parks reopen amid coronavirus pandemic – many visitors refuse to wear face masks and observe social distancing.

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