Yosemite fire puts hundreds of iconic redwoods at risk

The devastating blaze, which started last Thursday and intensified over the weekend, is now threatening Yosemite National Park’s largest grove of giant sequoias and forcing campers and residents to evacuate the area.

A fire that started last week in Yosemite National Park, California, intensified over the weekend and is now threatening the famous Mariposa Grove, the park’s largest cluster of iconic redwoods.

Firefighters worked tirelessly to protect nearly 500 giant trees – some of which are over 3,000 years old, while campers and residents near the blaze were ordered to evacuate as thick smoke was spreading through the area, dramatically worsening air quality and increasing temperatures over the years. 90F (32C).

The blaze, fueled by wood and brush and intensified by unusually dry conditions blamed on climate change, nearly doubled in size between Sunday and Monday, spreading over 2.5 square miles (6.7 square kilometers) in the southern area of ​​Yosemite, home to some of the longest and tallest trees in the world.

Once considered impervious to flames, the iconic redwoods have become much more vulnerable to climate change-induced fires, which have intensified and become more destructive in recent years. California has experienced warmer temperatures and drier seasons, resulting in longer and more intense dry seasons due to climate change. The conditions needed to start a forest fire are more easily met, which also increases its severity once it has started.

According Bloomberglightning-ignited fires over the past two years have killed up to a fifth of the estimated 75,000 tall redwoods found in the 1,200-square-mile park.

The United States is having another very active year for fires, and although the season is just getting started, data shows that 2022 is already the country’s worst wildfire year in more than a decade. According statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center, so far in 2022 nearly 36,000 wildfires have burned more than 4.8 million acres nationwide, with Alaska one of the hardest hit countries in terms of area lost. By contrast, between January and November 2021, “only” 1.9 million acres of land were affected by wildfires, significantly less than the area burned so far this year.

According to Nancy Phillipe, a fire information spokesperson working at the park, Monday the Yosemite fire was zero percent contained and there was no estimate of damage to the redwoods yet.

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