Firefighters battle to protect treasured California Sequoias

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) – Firefighters in Central California on Thursday say the state’s largest wildfire threatens to sweep through an ancient grove of Giant Sequoia trees considered to be a national treasure.

Firefighters are clearing lines with bulldozers around the Grant Grove and putting up sprinklers, said Andy Isolano, a spokesman for the Clovis Fire Department.

Although Isolano said the trees can endure fire, some are stressed in the four-year drought and they’re not taking any chances because the fast-moving flames are about five miles from the grove.

It is named for the towering General Grant tree that stands 268 feet tall. There are dozens of Sequoia groves in the Sierra Nevada, and some trees are 3,000 years old.

Lightning strikes on July 31 sparked the wildfire in the Kings Canyon National Park east of Fresno. It has charred 172 square miles and is less than one-third contained.

Meanwhile, lions, tigers and other cats big and small are being evacuated as California’s biggest wildfire continues to spread, possibly threatening the park where they live, officials said Thursday.

Cat Haven in Fresno County, where the fire has been burning for nearly six weeks, is closing temporarily. Officials are also advising more residents to be ready to evacuate as the stubborn blaze spreads.

The fire sparked by lightning on July 31 has charred about 172 square miles. It is less than one-third contained.

Nearly three dozen wild cats will soon be moved from the 100-acre site just west of King’s Canyon National Park.

The foothill communities of Dunlap, Miramonte, and Pinehurst are under evacuation warnings.

KFSN reports the cats will go south to the Los Angeles area, while others will stay in the Fresno area. The Fresno Chaffee Zoo is also assisting.

Another wildfire in Northern California that exploded in size has destroyed six homes in Amador County as evacuations remained in place Thursday, Cal Fire officials said. Two outbuildings were also destroyed. It is about 20 percent contained and has spread to nearby Calaveras County.

Another wildfire above Yosemite Valley grew to 500 acres, sending plumes of smoke visible throughout the park, park spokesman Scott Gediman said. Trails on the north rim of Yosemite Valley south of the Tioga Road and east of Yosemite Creek are closed, Gediman said. The causes of the fires are under investigation.

Information from: KFSN-TV.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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