General Sherman, the world’s largest tree (by volume), is facing big trouble as wildfires threaten to edge into the Giant Forest of Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks (KNP). In a desperate attempt to save this leafy icon, rangers have covered the base of the tree in a heat-proof foil blanket.
The KNP Complex fire has been burning through Sequoia National Park after being ignited by lightning on the night of September 9, according to the National Park Service (NPS). Over the past couple of weeks, it’s grown to encompass a 9,365-acre (3,800 hectares) area at time of reporting and continues to expand at a dizzying rate.
Now, it’s feared the creeping fire could soon reach the Giant Forest, home to General Sherman and many other giant sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum), also known as giant redwoods or Sierra redwoods.
“Crews are preparing the Giant Forest before the fire reaches that area, by removing fuel and applying structure wrap on some of the iconic monarch sequoias that characterize the most famous area of Sequoia National Park,” NPS said in a Facebook post late on Thursday.
“The fire continues to grow in all directions.”
Mark Garrett, a spokesperson for the KNP Complex fire, told the LA Times that the trees are being wrapped in specialized aluminum material, “like tinfoil basically,” that is used by firefighters to protect fire-threatened structures.
General Sherman stands at 83.8 meters (275 feet) tall with a chunky diameter of 11 meters (36 feet) at its base. With a mind-blowing volume of 1,487 cubic meters (52,500 cubic feet), it holds the record for the world’s largest single-stem tree by volume. No one is quite certain of its age, but most estimates put it at well over 2,000 years old. General Sherman is not the area’s only famous resident, however. In total, the Giant Forest contains five of the top 10 largest trees on Earth and around 2,000 sequoias.
The Lindsey Creek tree, a coast redwood in California's Lindsey Creek, was the former world record holder, reportedly standing proud at 118.87 meters (390 feet). However, the giant fell during a storm in 1905.