The Washburn Fire began on Thursday afternoon and has since grown to 700 acres in Yosemite National Park, closing down Mariposa Grove and forcing mandatory evacuations of the Wawona community and Wawona Campground.
On Saturday morning, multiple cameras witnessed the fire exhibiting extreme behavior:
An evacuation shelter has been opened at the New Life Christian Fellowship for evacuees.
The fire is currently burning near the lower portion of Mariposa Grove, which is famous for being one of the largest collection of mature trees in the world. John Muir once called the sequoia trees of Mariposa Grove as “nature’s forest masterpiece, and so far as I know, the greatest of living things.”
Following the Castle Fire in 2020 and the recent Windy and KNP Complex fires in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, officials have estimated that 7,500 to 10,400 giant sequoias burned over the past 15 months. That accounts for roughly 13 to 19 percent of the world’s sequoias greater than 4 feet in diameter. The revelation illustrates the devastating impact of recent California wildfires on the wilderness.
Giant sequoia trees live exclusively in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, typically in the middle of California. These trees can grow taller than 300 feet and wider than 30 feet, a can live to 3,000 years old. Sequoias actually use wildfire to reproduce, with embers spreading their seedlings and thinning larger trees to allow sunlight to hit the smaller trees. But with recent wildfires burning at a higher intensity than ever seen by modern humans, the trees are seeing long-lasting harm.
Mariposa Grove has seen its fair share of turmoil over the past few years. In January 2021, a wind storm blasted through Yosemite National Park, toppling the massive trees and destroying buildings and infrastructure in the area. The grove also saw a 3-year closure from 2015 to 2018, where the entire region was upgraded – roads, trails and buildings – as well as four new miles of hiking trails.