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KNP Complex Fire threatens Sequoia National Park's Giant Forest

KNP Complex Fire threatens Sequoia National Park's Giant Forest
The KNP Complex fire is threatening the Sequoia National Park and its Giant Forest, prompting officials to close the park and evacuate staff. Photo courtesy InciWeb

Sept. 15 (UPI) -- California's Sequoia National Park closed and evacuated employees from facilities as a pair of wildfires are threatening the area.

The KNP Complex Fire, made up of the Paradise Fire and the Colony Fire, has burned a total of 7,039 acres and was 0% contained as of Wednesday in Tulane County, according to the National Parks Service.

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The blaze is on course to move toward Sequoia National Park's Giant Forest, which is home to more than 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree, which the National Park Service says is the largest tree on Earth by volume.

"There's no imminent threat to Giant Forest, but that is a potential," Mark Ruggiero, fire information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks said during a news conference on Tuesday.

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Ruggiero added that sequoia trees are "fire-adaptive" but added that "when we get such intense fires even the sequoias can't stand up to them."

Both fires that make up the complex were started by lightning strikes on Friday and the NPS said "extremely steep topography and a total lack of access" has prevented any ground crew operations from reaching the Paradise Fire while only a limited amount of ground crew access has been possible for the Colony Fire.

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The Paradise Fire grew to the west prompting the Tulare County Sheriff to issue a mandatory evacuation order for part of the community of Three Rivers.

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The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, also said Wednesday that the Dixie Fire was 75% contained after burning 960,470 acres.

The blaze has resulted in one death and destroyed 1,329 structures while damaging 95 others since it began on July 13.

Additionally, the Caldor Fire has burned 219,267 acres and was 70% contained as of Wednesday.

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It has been blamed for five injuries, while destroying 1,003 structures and damaging 81 more since Aug. 14.

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