US fire crews wrap giant trees in blankets to save them from fire

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The world’s largest trees were wrapped in fireproof blankets Thursday in an effort to protect them from huge fires raging through the drought-stricken western United States.

A forest of ancient redwoods, including the 275-foot (83-meter) General Sherman tree, the largest in the world, was receiving aluminum cladding to defend against flames.

Firefighters were also clearing brush and placing engines among 2,000 ancient trees in California’s Sequoia National Park, incident commanders said.

“They are taking extraordinary steps to protect these trees,” said park resource manager Christy Brigham, according to The Mercury News.

“We really want to do everything we can to protect these 2,000- and 3,000-year-old trees.”

Millions of acres (hundreds of thousands of hectares) of California’s forests have been burned in this year’s fierce fire season.

Scientists say man-made global warming is behind a year-long drought and rising temperatures that have left the region highly vulnerable to wildfires.

On Thursday, two fires were brewing in the park’s Giant Forest, home to five of the largest trees in the world, including General Sherman.

About 500 people took part in the fight against the Paradise Fire and the Colony Fire, which together have already consumed 9,365 acres of forest since they were struck by lightning on September 10.

The massive trees of the Giant Forest are a major tourist attraction, with visitors traveling from all over the world to marvel at their imposing height and extraordinary girth.

While they are not the tallest trees (California redwoods can grow to over 300 feet), giant redwoods are the largest by volume.

Smaller fires generally do not harm redwoods, which are protected by thick bark, and actually help them reproduce; the heat they generate opens the cones to release seeds.

But the larger, hotter flames ravaging the western United States are dangerous to them because they climb higher up the logs and into the canopy.

(AFP)