Firefighters conduct firing operations to protect Sequoia National Park Headquarters

On the KNP Complex of fires in Southern California

10:58 a.m. PDT Sept. 24, 2021

KNP Complex of fires map
KNP Complex of fires map. The red line was the perimeter at 11 p.m. PDT Sept. 23, 2021. The white line was the perimeter Sept. 19. The green areas are the approximate locations of giant sequoia groves.

One of the highest priorities on the 36,850-acre KNP Complex of fires in Sequoia National Park other than protecting the giant sequoia trees is stopping the south edge of the fire before it gets to Mineral King Road, the location of many structures. On Thursday there were five hotshot crews and a dozer building fireline on the perimeter from Oriole Lake to the east to tie it in with rock. This is not far from the Oriole and Atwell Groves of sequoias. Aircraft supported this operation to reduce the fire’s intensity, enabling firefighters to work closer to the edge of the fire. They expect to complete this section of line on Friday.

To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the KNP Complex of fires, including the most recent, click HERE.

In recent days the fire spread closer to the National Park Service facilities in the Ash Mountain area, including the helibase and park headquarters. After weeks of planning and preparation, on Thursday firefighters conducted a tactical firing operation north of the Generals Highway to remove fuel and help protect the structures. They reported it went well. Weather permitting, on Friday firefighters will conduct a similar operation south of the highway not far from park headquarters. The smoke will again be very visible from Three Rivers. Tying all this in will be key to preventing further westward movement of the fire toward park HQ and the communities along the highway.

KNP Complex, firing operation above park headquarters
KNP Complex of fires. Firing operation above park headquarters, Sept. 23, 2021. Looking toward Fry Point from Ash Mountain Headquarters. NPS photo by M. Theune.

In a Thursday morning briefing Operations Section Chief Jon Wallace said he did not have enough hand crews and other resources to be able to work on all of the high priority areas at the same time, and is forced to shift them around based on fire activity.

Roads in shaded fuel breaks on National Forest land northwest of the fire were being re-opened Thursday by 17 dozers. This will allow firefighters access if the fire moves into the area. Other fuel treatments in the park, including a long history of prescribed fire, have been very effective in slowing the spread of the fire, Mr. Wallace said.

KNP complex of fires dozer
A dozer improved the fire road from Ash Mountain to North Fork on Sept. 19, 2021. NPS photo by Mark Garrett.

The General Sherman tree and all of the other giant sequoias are still standing in the Giant Forest. The fire moved into the grove a fairly short distance before firefighters were able to stop it in that area.

A drone is being used to help ignite burnout operations on the north side of the fire west of Little Baldy.

A mobile retardant base is now operational north of the fire at Meadows. Helicopters will be loaded there with fire retardant and gel to slow the spread of the fire in the sequoia groves, assisting firefighters on the ground.

Resources assigned to the fire include 49 hand crews, 58 fire engines, 28 dozers, 35 water tenders, 11 masticators, and 21 helicopters for a total of 1,620 personnel.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.