Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

General Sherman tree wrapped in foil as wildfire nears

An image shared Thursday by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks shows the General Sherman sequoia, the world's largest tree by volume, with its base wrapped with protective foil as the KNP Complex fire edges closer.

'It Has Come to This': Ancient Sequoias Wrapped in Foil as Wildfire Threatens

"We can't wait any longer to #ActOnClimate."

Andrea Germanos

A grove of ancient trees in Sequoia National Park remained Friday in the path of a California wildfire that has already triggered evacuations and other protective efforts including wrapping some of the iconic trees—including the planet's biggest—in protective foil covering.

The immediate threat is the KNP Complex fire. Spanning 9,365 acres, the complex includes the Paradise Fire and the Colony Fire, both sparked by lightning last week.

A Thursday update from the National Park Service indicated that crews were "removing fuel and applying structure wrap on some of the iconic monarch sequoias that characterize the most famous area of Sequoia National Park," adding that "the fire continues to grow in all directions."

Among the giant sequoias covered with the heat-resistant foil is the General Sherman Tree, believed to be at least 2,200 years old, which stands in the park's Giant Forest. It's the largest tree on the planet by volume, standing 275 feet tall with a base measuring over 36 feet.

Sequoias can live for thousands of years and are adapted to repeated fires, with their cones releasing seeds under the dried-out conditions and thriving under ash-covered soil. "But the extraordinary intensity of fires—fueled by climate change—can overwhelm the trees," the Associated Press reported.

The potential for such losses on a planet besieged by the climate crisis was realized last year when the Castle Fire struck the Sierra Nevada. As many as 10,600 large sequoias—10% to 14% of those in the tree's natural range—were killed.

"These trees have been here 1,500 years, so how many fires have they withstood: 80?" Scott Stephens, a fire scientist at UC Berkeley, told NPR as he surveyed the tree damage from the Castle Fire. "And then one fire comes in 2020 and suddenly they're gone."

According to Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.), the flames threatening the ancient trees this week should serve as a clear call-to-action on the climate emergency.

"If we don’t address the climate crisis with urgency, we risk losing irreplaceable treasures like the famous California Giant sequoias," he tweeted Thursday. "We can't wait any longer to #ActOnClimate."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Federal Judge Allows 'Untenable' Plan to Send Juvenile Inmates to Angola Prison

"The move defies all common sense and best practices, and it will cause irrevocable damage to our youth and families," said one children's advocate.

Julia Conley ·


'Catastrophic': Arizona Judge Allows 1864 Abortion Ban to Go Into Effect

"No archaic law should dictate our reproductive freedom," said one rights advocate.

Julia Conley ·


US Progressives Express Solidarity With Iranian Protesters After Death of Mahsa Amini

"The right to choose belongs to us all, from hijabs to reproductive care," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Julia Conley ·


Critics of Louisiana LNG Project 'Hopeful' as Huge Sales Contracts Canceled

"The fight is not over," says one activist, but "from tax breaks to pollution and now to these recent financial downswings, we have all the evidence we need to understand that Driftwood will be a parasite."

Jessica Corbett ·


DHS Officials Urge Biden to End 'Disastrous Leadership' of Embattled IG

In an anonymous letter, the Homeland Security staffers say Inspector General Joseph Cuffari's actions "embarrass the entire agency."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo