Disasters & Accidents

California’s ancient redwoods survive fires

By Marc Arcas

Pescadero, California, Aug 25 (efe-epa).- The 2,000-year-old giant redwoods that are emblematic of California are bearing up well amid the wildfires raging in the northern part of the Golden State.

Efe saw Tuesday that the Sequoia sempervirens trees in Big Basin Redwoods State Park and Portola Redwoods State Park have survived the flames of the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, affecting Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, south of San Francisco.

While wildfires are nothing new for California, the CZU blaze is unusual because of its location in heavily populated coastal areas, according to Cal Fire, the state agency that oversees firefighting efforts.

First responders give priority to protecting people, homes and businesses, but San Mateo County ambulance driver Michael Sayen told Efe outside a fire station in Pescadero that seeing the redwoods burn would make him “very sad.”

Two successive days of relatively cool, humid conditions have aided firefighters in expanding containment of the CZU fire from 8 percent to 17 percent.

On the southern edge of the blaze, Santa Cruz city and the University of California, Santa Cruz, are out of danger, and authorities are also confident that the flames will not reach Pescadero, at the northern end of the CZU.

“We’ve seen significant progress in our firefight,” Cal Fire operations section chief Mark Brunton said Tuesday at a news conference. “The weather has really been cooperating. We’re getting a trickle of resources, and we’re putting those to use.”

The CZU fire, which broke out during the weekend of Aug. 15-16 amid thunderstorms that brought little rain but nearly 11,000 lightning strikes, has consumed 31,565 hectares (77,938 acres), destroyed some 300 buildings and claimed the life of a 73-year-old man who died trying to flee the flames.

The blazes have forced around 200,000 Californians to leave their homes, including 77,000 residents of Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that seven people remain unaccounted for.

Cal Fire also reported progress against the largest active blaze in Northern California, the LNU Lightning Complex Fire, which has destroyed more than 142,000 hectares (350,000 acres) and 871 buildings in Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Solano, and Yolo Counties.

By Tuesday morning, the LNU fire was 22 percent contained, while the SCU Lightning Complex Fire, east of San Jose, was 15 percent contained after burning upwards of 140,000 hectares (347,000 acres).

Five people have died in the LNU fire, the second-largest in California history.

The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, has pointed to climate change as a factor in the current spate of fires.

“What’s remarkable about the CZU is this is a coastal fire in forests with lots of redwoods that have never simply seen forest fires like this,” he said Monday.

The fires are adding to the burden of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, raising questions about health risks to the crews and to people who have to be evacuated, while the smoke from the blazes has resulted in dangerously poor levels of air quality in Greater San Francisco. EFE


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