By AccuWeather Global Weather Center
Sequoia National Park is shut down, its gigantic trees, some of the largest and oldest on Earth, threatened by two forest fires burning in California’s Sierra Nevada.
Resident employees have been evacuated along with a portion of the community of Three Rivers outside of the park’s entrance. The popular park’s historic wooden entrance sign dating to 1935 is covered in fire-resistant wrapping.
“We have reached a tipping point — lack of frequent fire for the past century in most groves, combined with the impacts of a warming climate, have made some wildfires much more deadly for sequoias,” the National Park Service said. The giant sequoias, which grow along the west slope of the Sierra Nevada, can be as old as 3,400 years, according to the NPS website.
Fire is burning about a mile away from the Giant Forest, which is home to more than 2,000 giant sequoias, including the tree dubbed General Sherman. It’s famous for being the largest tree on Earth by volume, standing 275 feet (83 m) tall and more than 36 feet (11 m) in diameter at the base. The massive tree is a popular site for visitors who want to take in and photograph the enormous and ancient trees, and the NPS calls it a “must-see” on its Giant Forest site.
“There’s no imminent threat to Giant Forest, but that is a potential,” Mark Ruggiero, fire information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, told ABC News on Tuesday. The lightning-sparked Colony and Paradise fires, which together are being called the KNP Complex, have burned more than 9,300 acres as of Thursday night, according to InciWeb.