Giant sequoias wrapped in fire blankets as wildfire approaches

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 6:02 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 6:18 PM EDT
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(KFSN) - The “Windy fire” burning in the Tule River Reservation and Sequoia National Forest is nearly 55,000 acres while the “K-N-P Complex” fire in Sequoia National Park is at 9,300 acres.

Each of these fires have unique challenges. The Windy fire has an inversion layer created by smoke from the fire which makes it dangerous for aircraft to fly. Meanwhile the K-N-P Complex fire is burning in rugged high country, making it hard to access.

As crews develop plans to extinguish the fires, they’re also working on protecting cabins and giant sequoias.

Tree hugging takes on a whole new meaning for crews working tirelessly to protect one of the planet’s tallest treasures. The base of the world’s largest tree, General Sherman, is covered with aluminized structure wrap as the K-N-P Complex fire burning in Sequoia National Park creeps closer.

“These trees are adaptive to fire, but no intense fire... so we want to do everything we can to protect these trees as well as all these historic cabins that are on the national park,” said Steven Bekkerus who is fighting the K-N-P Complex fire.

Multiple communities in Tulare County including Mineral Kings and Three Rivers have been forced to evacuate. Fire officials said that the blaze is burning in rugged, high country making it difficult to access, but officials said Thursday, firefighters were able to put some protection efforts in place.

“The fire is still active and it’s still moving about but the growth itself was not a lot today,” said Bekkerus.

Farther south, the Windy fire is burning on the Tule River Indian Reservation and in the Sequoia National Forest. Evacuation orders have been issued as the blaze threatens Johnsondale and Camp Whitsett.

Smoke in the area has created an inversion layer which slows fire behavior but doesn’t allow aircraft to fly because visibility is too low. Firefighters are also stretched thin across the state.

“We’re competing for resources just like all the other incidents,” said Thanh Nguyen, who is fighting the Windy fire.

Historic buildings like the Mule Peak Lookout and signs are also being protected with aluminized structure wrap. Officials said variables such as the importance of the landmark, time, and cleared brush around the structure are variables in determining what gets wrapped.

Fire crews want residents to know along with these measures that they’re also protecting homes to prevent heartbreak.

“We want everybody to know though, in the area, we totally sympathize with them and their concern and we’re doing everything we can to put this thing out.”

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