Two wildfires in California’s Sierra Nevada have sparked evacuations across the region as they threaten to destroy the giant sequoias, the world’s largest trees, officials warned.
Sequoia National Park has been shut down after the Colony and Paradise fires — named for the locations where they started — were ignited by lightning on Sep. 9.
The combined size of the fires grew to more than 9 square miles late Tuesday.
The fires are rapidly burning through steep and dangerous terrain and are projected to advance toward the Giant Forest, which is home to more than 2,000 sequoias, which can grow to 300 feet tall.
Mark Ruggiero, fire information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, estimated late Tuesday the closest flames were about a mile from the grove.
The threat to the giant sequoias comes just one year after a series of disastrous fires in the same region.
About 10 percent of the sequoias in the region were destroyed by last year’s Castle Fire.
“Sequoia trees are a fire-adaptive tree,” Ruggiero told the Associated Press.
“It’s important to have fire to have sequoias thrive, but when we get such intense fires, even the sequoias can’t stand up to them.”
Due to the steep terrain, ground fire crews have been completely cut off from the Paradise Fire.
They’ve only had limited ground access to the Colony Fire.
“Both fires have utilized extensive aerial resources performing water and retardant drops, but even this was hindered (Monday) by bad visibility in extremely smoky conditions,” the National Park Service warned in an alert.
The alerts added that the Paradise Fire had “made a downhill run” and crossed over the Kaweah River and the Generals Highway — forcing the evacuation of park employees from its nearby Ash Mountain Headquarters and housing areas.
Parts of the region, including the Silver City retreat and Cabin Cove summer cabins, are under evacuation orders.
Three Rivers, a community just outside the park entrance, was under an evacuation warning as of late Tuesday.
California has been plagued by more than 7,400 wildfires this year alone that have already burned through over 3,500 square miles — about a dozen times the size of New York City.
With Post wires