California fires threaten famous Sequoia trees | News | DW | 16.09.2015
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California fires threaten famous Sequoia trees

Wildfires continue to burn across the US state of California and now threaten some of the state's most famous forests. Firefighters are scrambling to protect the national treasures.

The so-called Rough Fire, the largest of the fires burning across northern and central California, has edged closer to the giant trees in recent days.

"The fire has moved into a number of Sequoia groves in King's Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Forest, and we are taking preventive measures to make sure nothing happens to them," said park spokesman Mike Theune.

Theune said firefighters were monitoring the trees round-the-clock, spraying water and clearing the area.

The Rough Fire in California has burned 139,000 acres near Sequoia and King's Canyon national parks. More than 3,700 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is 40 percent contained, according to the US Forest Service.

Further north, thousands of firefighters are also battlingtwo fast-moving wildfires - the Valley Fire and the Butte Fire - that erupted over the weekend.

The fires killed at least one person, forced the evacuation of more than 23,000 people and destroyed more than 700 homes.

Small town completely destroyed

Middletown, north of San Francisco, was completely gutted by the flames that left an apocalyptic scene and shocked even seasoned firefighters with its speed and strength.

Residents slowly came back to the town on Tuesday to check on their still smoldering homes. Officials said at least 400 homes and businesses had burned to the ground.

"Everyone in here could tell you a horror story you wouldn't believe," said Ashley Mayhew, a manager at Hardester's, a market in the heart of Middletown that stayed open during the inferno.

Although temperatures are expected to drop this week, fire officials remain on alert due to hot conditions and landscape that has been left parched by a four-year drought.

California Governor Jerry Brown, who has declared a state of emergency in the affected counties, said Monday that he did not see an end to the fire season in the months ahead, blaming climate change in part for the blazes.

"It is going to get worse because of the nature of climate change," he told reporters.

Resources have been stretched thin as firefighters have also been battling wildfires in other West Coast states this summer, including Washington and Oregon.

Officials said the wildfires, which have mobilized 30,000 firefighters, could be the costliest on record with more than $1.23 billion (1.09 billion euros) spent so far.

av/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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