Firefighters Are Using Aluminum Blankets To Protect Iconic Sequoia Trees

The KNP Complex fire has burned 25,020 acres, is 0% contained, and charring Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.

The intense fire was ignited by lightning on September 9 and continues to scorch thousands of acres every day. As it makes it way through the parks, firefighters are doing everything they can to protect the iconic trees – including wrapping them with aluminum blankets.

“The fire blankets have been used for a long time to protect the structure,” Christy M Brigham, Chief Resources Management & Science, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks told ABC News.

They work by creating a protective barrier that prevents ambers from getting into old fire scars on the trees. In addition to the blankets, firefighters have cleared dead debris around the base of the trees which is fuel to the fire.

Despite the fire reaching the Four Guardsmen in the Giant Forest, fuel removal efforts by firefighters, combined with…

Posted by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on Sunday, September 19, 2021

The shiny aluminum-based blankets are saving the ancient trees. The Four Guardsmen in the Giant Forest survived the raging flames over the weekend due in part to firefighters wrapping the base of the massive trees with blankets.

It is working

“Despite the fire reaching the Four Guardsmen in the Giant Forest, fuel removal efforts by firefighters, combined with structure wrap applied by crews to the base of the iconic sequoia trees, successfully protected these national treasures,” posted Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Posted by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on Thursday, September 16, 2021

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The world’s largest tree known as General Sherman was also wrapped and untouched by the fire. Phew! The giant sequoia is over 2,000 years old, 275 feet tall, and a major tourist attraction.

While a sequoia’s thick bark does not burn easily and is built to withstand fires, the intense heat of the recent wildfires are destroying the old trees.

A Chinook helicopter drops water on Paradise ridge during yesterday's increased fire activity seen on 9/19/2021 Photo NPS/Mark Garrett

Posted by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on Monday, September 20, 2021

Helicopters are flying over dumping water, sprinklers are running all day around the museum, and firefighters are creating containment lines to try and protect the legendary trees.

The parks are closed to visitors, and everyone is praying for rain.

PARK CLOSURE ALERTKings Canyon National Park Now Largely Closed due to KNP Complex Fire, Sequoia National Park Closure…

Posted by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on Sunday, September 19, 2021

History Is Repeating…

Last year, Castle Fire, also started by lightning, tore through the Sequoia National Park and destroyed 7,500-10,000 sequoias.

Roughly 10% of the world’s giant sequoias were destroyed by Castle Fire and will take centuries to rebuild.

Experts believe an additional 2,000 sequoias are at risk from the KNP Complex Fire.

Photo: Pixabay

How To Protect Sequoias From Future Fires

UC Berkeley scientists believe the answer is more controlled or prescribed burns. Professor Scott Stephens said, “If we don’t get through the forest restoration that we need we are never going to get out of this hole. We are going to be chasing our tails forever. My back-of-the-envelope calculation says we need to do 10 times more prescribed burning and restoration thinning than what we are doing annually.”

Photo: Pixabay/Justin Clark

The increase in frequency and intensity of wildfires has been linked to climate change and Brigham agrees that we must act now to save the remaining sequoias.

“That is one of the gifts of giant sequoias — is that they force us to think in deep time,” she said. “It forces us to confront the challenge of climate change.”

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