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Officials wrapped the world’s largest tree in protective foil to guard it against California wildfires

By Alisha Ebrahimji and Stephanie Elam, CNN

The world’s largest tree has been wrapped in foil to protect it against flames from a fire raging in California’s scenic Sequoia National Park.

The base of the General Sherman Tree has been wrapped in aluminum-based burn-resistant material, according to Sequoia and Kings National Parks.

The tree is 275 feet tall, and over 36 feet in diameter at the base, making it taller than the Statue of Liberty from its base to the torch.

The KNP Complex Fire, which is made up of the Paradise Fire and the Colony Fire, has charred 11,365 acres, so far. Lightning on September 9 caused the initial fire and prompted Sequoia National Park to close its doors to visitors.

Park crews are preparing the Giant Forest, which is home to over 2,000 sequoias, by removing fire fuel and wrapping the trees.

“We basically told the fire crews to treat all our special sequoias like they were buildings and wrap them all up, and rake all the litter away and roll away the heavy logs,” Christy Brigham, chief of resource management and science for the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, told CNN.

In more rugged, inaccessible terrain, crews are dropping fire retardant gel by helicopter on the groves, but due to the heavy smoke inversion, aircraft have been impeded, Brigham said.

The other issue is that the fire is burning in places where the National Park Service has no history of wildfires. That means there’s a lot of overgrowth and that could give a wildfire a lot of fuel to burn through — leading to a hotter, more intense fire that could severely impact the sequoias.

Even though crews are hard at work trying to protect these sequoias, they have already been hit hard by wildfires in recent years. “Two-thirds of all giant sequoia grove acreage across the Sierra Nevada has burned in wildfires between 2015 and 2020,” the National Park Service says.

Last year’s Castle Fire took out, 10 to 14% of all the mature giant sequoia trees on the planet, an estimated 7,500 to 10,600 trees, that could have ranged from hundreds to 3,000 years old, the service added.

The current fire has crossed the main road and is burning toward the precious giant trees, Brigham, said.

It jumped Generals Highway at Crystal Cave Road and is burning toward the Four Guardsman, the park’s Sequoia trees that lead visitors into the Giant Forest, she added.

The National Park Service has a team at the Four Guardsman who are protecting the older trees like the famed General Sherman, Brigham said.

However, Sam Hodder, president and CEO of Save the Redwoods League, explained that fire is not the enemy of the giant sequoias, pointing out that these trees have lived through numerous wildfires and generally respond well to fires of moderate intensity.

Just a few months after the Castle Fire last year, a carpet of baby giant sequoias shot up from the earth where the devastating fire had occurred.

And even though giant sequoias adapt to periodic fire, the bark usually protects the trees against significant damage and can insulate them against a fire’s heat, NPS said. Over time, however, it may be difficult for the trees to heal after centuries of fire scars.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Stella Chan, Cheri Mossburg, Lauren M. Johnson and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.

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