California Washburn Fire grows to 1,591 acres as firefighters protect sequoias

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California Washburn Fire grows to 1,591 acres as firefighters protect sequoias

The 1,591-acre Washburn Fire is threatening giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park, fire officials said Sunday. Photo courtesy InciWeb

Fire crews in California are fighting Sunday to protect giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park from a raging wildfire.

The Washburn Fire, which was first reported near the Washburn Trail in the Mariposa Grove area of the park on Thursday, has grown to 1,591 acres and is 0% contained as of Sunday morning, according to the National Park Service.

Officials said the fire was active overnight, growing by 50% from Saturday evening as firefighters assigned “significant importance” to protecting the giant sequoias from the impacts of the fire.

“The Park Service and firefighters are proactively protecting the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias,” the Park Service said. “While structure warp is not being used on the sequoias themselves, additional methods are being used including the removal of heavy and fine fuels around the trees and deploying ground-based sprinkler systems to increase humidity near the trees.”

The fire is burning in “difficult terrain” where dead trees from 2013-2015 have provided fuel to the blaze, officials said.

Nancy Philipe, a fire information spokesperson for Yosemite National Park told the Fresno Bee that the blaze is expected to grow at a moderate pace while rising temperatures create difficult conditions for firefighters.

“Today the weather is going to be hotter and drier,” Philipe said. “That dries out the fuels and makes it easier for the fire to spread.”

The majority of Yosemite National Park remains open amid the blaze but Philipe said air quality in the park is considered “unhealthy” due to smoke from the blaze.

However, Mariposa Grove, near the southern entrance to the park was closed and mandatory evacuation orders were in place for the community of Wawona.

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