Crews struggle to protect giant sequoias as fire rages

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at ipns.com
Sat Jul 27 01:07:37 EST 2002


>From The Oregonian, July 25, 2002, p A5

Crews struggle to protect giant sequoias as fire rages
By KIM BACA, The Associated Press
	KERNVILLE, Calif. - Hundreds of firefighters struggled in erratic
wind and rugged terrain Wednesday to save centuries-old giant sequoias
from an out-of-control forest fire. Investigators, meanwhile, arrested
a woman whose campfire may have started the blaze.
	The wildfire blackened more than 50,000 acres, half of that inside
Giant Sequoia National Monument, in the Sequoia National Forest. The
region has had little or no rain since spring.
	A 45-year-old woman was taken into custody Wednesday at her
Bakersfield home on suspicion of causing the blaze, Forest Service
officer Brian Adams said. He said authorities tracked her down from
witness descriptions.
	Flames got to within two miles of a grove of sequoias called the
Trail of 100 Giants, and firefighters and forestry officials worried
that the wind might push the blaze closer to those trees and other
stands of the mighty redwoods.
	The monument's deep canyons and mountain ridges contribute to erratic
wind.
	"It's burning in every direction," forester Lewis Jump said. "It's
the worst in the afternoon. The hot canyon winds are coming up and
creating quite a bit of turbulence. That's what's pushing the fire."
	More than 1,000 firefighters and 12 air tankers battled the blaze.
The Forest Service called in six of the nation's elite hot shot
firefighting crews to help protect the trees. The trees in the Trail
of 100 Giants are up to 1,500 years old and 220 feet tall, with trunks
up to 20 feet across.
	The fire began Sunday in the area of Johnsondale, a hamlet about 130
miles north of Los Angeles.
	Adams said the woman arrested Wednesday went into a store Sunday and
said she needed help because she had been cooking hot dogs and her
campfire had blown out of control. The woman had been camping by a
lodge, and minutes after she made her declaration and left, the lodge
burned, he said.
	"She ran in the store and said, 'Help, I started a fire,'" Adams
said.
	More than 1,000 residents, campers and other vacationers fled the
area. At least 10 structures burned, and about 200 homes were
threatened.
	The woman was charged with unlawfully causing a fire, a federal
felony. Fires weren't banned in the area, a narrow canyon where the
Kern River cuts through the Sierra foothills, but the danger of fire
has been considered extreme lately and permits have been required.

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler
www.oregonwhitetruffles.com



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