In California, even fire-resistant trees must be protected from flames

Somewhere between a childhood vacation in Sequoia National Park and a biology class in college, I clung to one fact about California gia...


Somewhere between a childhood vacation in Sequoia National Park and a biology class in college, I clung to one fact about California giant sequoias: They are immune to wildfires.

These ancient trees survived for so long because they had found a way to coexist with a deadly threat. Or so I thought.

Last summer, only one fire kill tens of thousands of redwoods in the Sierra Nevada. And this month, fires in and around Sequoia National Park have swept through the bases of these massive trees, worrying firefighters scrambling to protect them.

The ever-increasing intensity of fires in California has become too much for even the redwoods, which have evolved to survive – even thrive – in the fires. The dangers prompted firefighters last week to wrap General Sherman, considered the tallest tree in the world, in fire retardant sheet in order to save it from the flames.

Experts say the fires that redwoods have endured for centuries were mostly of low quality. The thick bark and vertiginous tops protected the trees from serious damage. The heat from the flames even helped them reproduce by releasing seeds from their cones.

But now California’s redwood groves are facing the consequences of a century of fire suppression that has left dense forests with flammable vegetation. Drought and rising temperatures have killed other plants and turned them into kindling.

This has led to fires on an unprecedented scale. Between 2015 and 2020, two-thirds of Sierra Nevada’s giant sequoias groves were burned by forest fires, up from a quarter in the previous century, according to the National Park Service.

Redwoods may have adapted to fires, “but not at the confluence of changes over the past 100 years,” Joan Dudney, a forest ecologist who worked in Sequoia National Park, told me.

Last summer, the castle fire killed up to 10,600 large sequoias, or 14% of the population, according to the National park service. Some of the trees, which only grow in California, have been charred from their trunk to their crown.

Firefighters are working to avoid a repeat of last year. They cleared the base of the trees and swaddled them in reflective fire retardant blankets which are also used to protect homes in California.

On Monday evening, the most famous trees in Sequoia National Park remained safe, including General Sherman. Firefighters and tree lovers will nervously wait to see what Tuesday brings.

For more:


President Biden announced on Monday that his administration would draft rules on the dangers of heat in the workplace, one of the government’s first responses to an emerging area of ​​research into the harm workers face as a result of the rising temperatures.

Hot working conditions not only contribute to more cases of heatstroke and exhaustion, but also injuries from falls and improper handling of machinery, as the heat makes it difficult to concentrate.

A study published this summer found that extreme heat causes 20,000 workplace injuries in California each year.

Read the full story by my colleague Coral Davenport.


Today’s travel tip comes from Janine Sprout, who recommends Bodie State Historic Park in Mono County:

“A well-preserved ghost town where you can tell the miners have just left. Peeking out the windows for a glimpse of households that have stagnated for decades provides great entertainment. Enthusiastic state park rangers periodically give history lectures to fill in the gaps.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.


If you take a walk in Golden Gate Park today, you might hear the delicate notes of a piano.

Since the summer of 2016, a dozen concert pianos have been hidden every year in the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Typically, pros play for about an hour a day, while anyone else can press the keys the rest of the time, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

After a 26-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the pianos returned to the park on Friday. They will stay there until today.


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Newsrust - US Top News: In California, even fire-resistant trees must be protected from flames
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