SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — A giant sequoia tree in Sequoia National Park is still smoldering nine months after it caught fire during last summer’s wildfires.
National park scientists were surveying the damage caused by last year’s Castle Fire when they discovered the burning giant sequoia in the remote Board Camp Grove earlier this week. They said the discovery shows just how dry conditions in the central Sierra have been this year.
“The fact areas are still smoldering and smoking from the 2020 Castle Fire demonstrates how dry the park is,” said Leif Mathiesen, assistant fire management officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, in a statement.
“With the low amount of snowfall and rain this year, there may be additional discoveries as spring transitions into summer,” he added.
The Sierra saw less than half of its average snowfall totals this year and nearly 95% of Tulare County is experiencing “extreme drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The dry conditions prompted the Board of Supervisors last week to declare a local drought emergency.
Last August, lightning sparked the Castle Fire deep in the Sequoia National Forest. A gust of wind drove the fire across the southern border of the park in September, shuttering it for several weeks and causing thousands to evacuate from nearby Three Rivers.
The Castle Fire merged with the smaller Shotgun Fire and was renamed the SQF Complex in September. The fire incident was Tulare County’s largest, burning more than 174,000 acres and 230 structures before it was contained in January 2021.
Fifteen giant sequoias died in the blaze, most of them within the Giant Sequoia National Monument, which is not located in Sequoia National Park.
The tree smoldering in the national park is located deep within existing fire lines and poses no threat to the public or structures, rangers said. There is no direct access by any trail to the tree but it can be seen from Ladybug Trail near the South Fork Campgrounds.