YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (AP) – California firefighters gained ground on Monday in the battle against a wildfire that poses a threat to a grove of giant sequoias and a small community in Yosemite National Park.
The Washburn Fire on the western flank of the Sierra Nevada had scorched about 10.9 square kilometres but was 22 per cent contained as of Monday night, according to an incident update.
The fire was a threat to more than 500 mature sequoias in the park’s Mariposa Grove and the nearby community of Wawona, which has been evacuated.
The area in the southern portion of Yosemite was closed to visitors but the rest of the national park remained open.
Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley have been protected since President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation in 1864.
A sprinkler system was set up within the grove to maintain moisture, and there were no reports of severe damage to any named trees, including the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant.
“Fortunately, the Mariposa Grove has a long history of prescribed burning and studies have shown that these efforts reduce the impacts of high-severity unwanted fire,” a National Park Service statement said.
A heat advisory was issued for the Central Valley sprawling below the Sierra while up in the fire area, a high temperature of 35 degrees Celsius was recorded for the village of Wawona, where hundreds tourists and residents were forced to evacuate last Friday.