Giant sequoia trees continue to smolder for up to two years from past wildfires

Three Fires, giant sequoia trees
Three fires in two years that killed giant sequoia trees. The darker green areas represent groves of giant sequoias.

The U.S. Forest Service distributed information yesterday saying there are areas still burning in giant sequoia groves after wildfires that occurred in the Castle and Windy Fires of 2020 and 2021.

From the Sequoia National Forest, July 23, 2022:

Three fires were discovered this week, still smoldering inside the 2020 Castle and 2021 Windy Fires. Firefighters from Sequoia National Forest quickly reached two, and the third could not be reached safely due to the dense stand of fire-killed trees surrounding it.

The 1-acre Cougar Fire was found burning in the Red Hill Giant Sequoia Grove near the Tule River Indian Reservation boundary. Less than a half mile away, the ¼-acre Crawford Fire was reported by fire personnel responding to the Cougar Fire. Both were caused by a smoldering giant sequoia tree leftover from last summer’s Windy Fire.

Burning area in giant sequoia grove
Burning area in giant sequoia grove. US Forest Service. Photo distributed July 23, 2022. (Date of the photo and name of fire not provided)

Fireline was constructed by hand to stop each fire from spreading further. Heavy material: treetops, limbs, and trunks of previous fallen trees continue to smolder underneath these still-standing sequoia trees, weakened by the fire burning inside them. Fire personnel will continue to mop up and extinguish what they can without jeopardizing their safety by having to work under a burning giant sequoia tree. Neither the Cougar nor Crawford Fires pose an immediate risk to nearby communities.

On Thursday, a third fire was reported southeast of Camp Nelson in the Belknap Giant Sequoia Grove. Helicopter personnel located this fire deep inside the burned area of the 2020 Castle Fire. Due to its remote location, numerous standing hazard trees endangering fire personnel, and minimal chance of escape, this fire will be monitored from a distance and by air.

There have been several instances of smoldering trees, most of them large diameter giant sequoias, observed and reported in both the Castle and Windy Fire burned areas. These are likely to continue as dry conditions persist. Firefighter safety is a priority when determining how best to extinguish these types of fires. They may have to be monitored until the trees fall on their own and can be managed safely on the ground.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Bob.

Two large fires north of Grand Canyon allowed to spread within predetermined boundaries

The Ikes and Castle Fires have burned a total of almost 23,000 acres

Ikes Fire Arizona
Aerial view of the Ikes Fire, August 15, 2019. Paul Lemmon photo.

Two wildland fires on lands managed by federal agencies north of the Grand Canyon have burned a total of almost 23,000 acres. Both fires, burning at about 8,000 feet above sea level, are being allowed to spread within predetermined boundaries in order to benefit the natural resources. (see map below)

The largest blaze, the Castle Fire on the Kaibab National Forest, has burned through 96 percent of the 19,368-acre planning area, consuming a significant amount of dead and down trees and some mixed conifer species. As expected with strong gusty winds on Friday, it became more active moving into pockets of unburned piñon-juniper and mixed conifer. The fire slowed once reaching confinement lines. A total of 32 personnel are assigned, which includes 4 fire engine crews. The estimated cost to date is $4.6 million.

map Castle and Ikes Fires Arizona
3-D map (looking west) showing the locations of the Castle and Ikes Fires north of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Data from August 17, 2019 at 3:30 a.m.

The 3,500-acre Ikes Fire is burning in Grand Canyon National Park and the Kaibab National Forest. It has spread across 42 percent of the 7,785-acre planning area, with low to moderate fire behavior being observed. Firefighting resources assigned include 1 hand crew, 7 fire engines, and 1 helicopter for a total of 88 personnel. On Friday gusty winds prevented firefighters from carrying out firing operations. Crews patrolled the perimeter on the northeast and eastern portions of the fire while other personnel continued to prep the west side of Forest Service Road 223. Observed fire behavior was active, with backing fire along ridge tops and single tree torching. The estimated cost to date is $1 million.

The predicted weather for the weekend is warm, very dry conditions with temperatures about 5 degrees above average. Gusty west to southwest breezes are predicted for Saturday afternoon with light drainage winds overnight.

Firefighters Arizona Castle Fire
Firefighters on the Castle Fire. Photo by Jackie Banks for the Kaibab National Forest July 19, 2019.