In this Sunday, September 12 photo released by the KNP Complex Fire Incident Command, smoke plumes rise from the Paradise Fire in Sequoia National Park, California.
KNP Complex Fire Incident Command/AP
The Paradise Fire raced out of control Monday night, crossing the Generals Highway and the middle fork of the Kaweah River, prompting evacuations of park employees.
All facilities and services in the Sequoia National Park, including campgrounds, visitor centers and park stores, are closed until the fire threat is diminished, the park said.
“Due to wildfire activity in the area, we are closing all trailheads that enter into Sequoia National Park to backpacking and day use hiking. All existing permit reservation holders will be issued a full refund,” an alert on the park’s website added. “Beginning September 12, backpackers will not be able to get overnight wilderness permits that start from the Mineral King Valley, Lodgepole or Giant Forest area, or Ash Mountain (foothills).”
Other areas in the wilderness are open, the park said, but are “heavily affected” by smoke and dangerous air quality.
Sequoias only naturally grow across the western slopes of the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range. Somewhere between 7,500 to 10,600 mature giant sequoias were destroyed by last year’s fire, according to a report by the National Park Service.
That’s about 10-14% of the entire world’s population of mature sequoias.
While the trees rely on fire to crack open their cones and release seeds to reproduce, those fires historically burned naturally at lower temperatures, killing small trees and thinning the forest. But fire suppression efforts have allowed the forest to grow denser, which, when combined with a yearslong drought, has allowed many of those trees to die out. That has created more fuels that burned hotter and more intensely than in previous fires.