General Sherman tree still standing, but it’s not out of the figurative woods yet, as California wildfires rage on

World’s largest tree was wrapped in foil-like covering in September to help protect it

Jon Wallace, Operations Section Chief, looks over General Sherman where the historic tree was protected by structure wrap from fires along with the Four Guardsmen at Sequoia National Park, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian) (Gary Kazanjian, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

General Sherman is still standing, but it’s not out of the figurative woods just yet, as it still towers in one of the county’s most famous stretch of woods.

The biggest and most famous of all the sequoia trees in California’s Sequoia National Park, General Sherman, has yet to be affected by the surrounding wildfires plaguing the area and destroying other trees and acreage.

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There are concerns it might, given the tree’s base was wrapped in aluminum-based, burn-resistant material back in September.

At 275 feet tall and more than 36 feet in diameter at its base, General Sherman is larger than the Statue of Liberty. It is estimated to be more than 2,000 years old, and was named after Civil War General William Sherman.

Ever since lightning ignited the KNP Complex fires on Sept. 9, there have been more than 184,000 acres and at least 26 groves of giant sequoias that have been charred, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

The KNP Complex fires are still only 20% contained, and rescue crews have tried an assortment of methods to protect sequoias, whether it’s wrapping them in the burn-resistant material, setting preemptive fires to burn away potential fuels, installing sprinkler systems and even having climbers go up and douse trees with water.

Those are traditional methods, but crews have also resorted to “experimental” ways to quell the fires and save as many trees as possible, according to the Los Angeles Times.

One new method is the use of a polyacrylamide gel similar to what’s in baby diapers, which is thicker and stickier than the typical retardant used in aerial firefighting tactics.

The hope is that the gel would adhere better to the grove’s canopy and be reactivated with water just before flames arrived after it dried out, but it’s never been used on sequoia trees before.

The trees have traditionally been able to survive fires that are low-intensity, but are more vulnerable to extreme blazes enhanced by climate change and the presence of dry vegetation.

“We’re pushed up against the wall,” Garrett Dickman, a botanist with Yosemite National Park who has been helping with relief efforts, told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s why you’re seeing all these kind of splashy techniques, because we’re running out of options.”

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

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