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Firefighters make gains against California wildfire threatening ancient sequoias

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CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - Firefighters from Cleveland National Forrest intervene in Washburn Fire burning in Yosemite National Park forced the closure of the South Gate entrance Yosemite South Gate, CA, United States on July 11, 2022. (Neal Waters - Anadolu Agency)
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Jul 13, 2022 - 05:54 AM

WASHINGTON (AA) – Firefighters battling a massive blaze that has threatened ancient giant sequoias in the state of California have made progress against the wildfire, containing roughly one-fifth of the blaze, according to data released Tuesday.

In all, 22% of the Washburn fire in Yosemite National Park has been contained, the Inciweb federal fire tracking website says. A total of 3,221 acres have been torched since the fire was first detected July 7.

Hundreds of firefighters have been trying to protect Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove, which is home to 500 towering sequoias, some estimated to be 3,000 years old. A sprinkler system has been established around the 209-foot tall Grizzly Giant sequoia and other at-risk trees.

Other measures have included firefighters starting smaller fires known as controller burns to help prevent the Washburn fire from being able to reach the protected area, and clearing debris from the forest floor.

The wildfire is beginning to move away from the Mariposa Grove, after originating to the north and east. The inferno is heading east away from the protected area.

Matt Ahearn, Operations Section Chief with California Interagency Incident Management Team 13, told a community meeting late Monday that efforts are “working very well currently,” and the fire is not currently expected to enter the grove.

He said the fire is now moving slowly but is creating intense spot fires, CNN reported.

“If you look at our progression maps, this fire is not moving quickly at all,” he said. “What it’s doing is producing extreme heat and just sitting there and billowing and just pumping smoke out of it, which is producing the large smoke columns you are seeing from many miles away.”

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