An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Firefighters are swaddling giant sequoias in a flame-retardant foil in an effort to protect the ancient trees from wildfires that are raging through national parks in California, officials said. Three wildfires, named Colony, Paradise and Windy, were ignited by lightning on Sept. 9. Since then, they have scorched thousands of acres of steep terrain, bringing them to the foot of some of the world’s oldest and largest trees in the Giant Sequoia National Monument of the Sequoia National Forest, and in Kings Canyon National Park in Central California. Park officials have been working to contain the spread of the fires using water and aerial drops of fire retardant. This week they also started wrapping some of the most well-known of the giant sequoias along the walking trail, including one called the General Sherman, in case the fires surge uphill into groves of giant sequoias.
“It is like a big spool,” said Mark Garrett, a spokesman for the fire incident team that is monitoring a set of fires known as the KNP Complex in the Sequoia groves and in Kings Canyon National Park. “They just unwrapped the roll and went around the base of the tree,” he said. “If fire got into the giant forest, I would be pretty confident that grove is going to be fine.” Mr. Garrett said they had to tailor the wrap to fit the General Sherman’s girth. (The tree is more than 36 feet across at its base.) The wrapping went as high as six feet high or more, he estimated. So far, he could confirm only that the General Sherman, which is 275 feet tall, had been blanketed. Other well-known giants along the popular trail are also going to be wrapped with the laminate of foil and fiber, which firefighters also use to make their shelters. The firefighters are also clearing the terrain of undergrowth, essentially starving the flames by leaving them little to consume. But heavy smoke was hampering firefighting efforts, Mr. Garrett said. Last month, the U.S. Forest Service closed all of California’s national forests to help “better provide public and firefighter safety due to the ongoing California wildfire crises.”
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