Flames from a growing wildfire reached the Giant Forest, the most famous grove of giant sequoias in California, late Friday night.
Mark Garrett, a fire information officer, told The San Francisco Chronicle the fire crossed the General’s Highway in Sequoia National Park and neared the Giant Forest. Some of the crews trying to prepare the area ahead of the fire also fled, he said.
The arrival of the flames to the iconic area was also posted by a Los Angeles Times reporter who tweeted that officials hope the preparations, including wrapping some trees in fireproof aluminum blankets and controlled burns in some areas, would save the grove, which is home to the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest.
While much attention focused on the most famous section of the park, however, other groves of the ancient trees, many of which reach 200 feet tall and are at least 2,000 years old, started burning earlier.
“These groves are just as impressive and just as ecologically important to the forest,” said Tim Borden, sequoia restoration and stewardship manager at Save the Redwoods League, a San Francisco environmental group, told The Mercury News. “They just aren’t as well known. My heart sinks when I think about it.”
California is home to about 70 groves of giant sequoias, the only place where they grow.
Last year, wildfire killed an estimated 7,500 to 10,600 large sequoias, roughly 10% to 14% of all the sequoias in the world, The Associated Press reported.