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Redwood sequoia Grizzly Giant threatened by fire in Yosemite

A sprinkler system has been set up around the Grizzly Tree near Yosemite, as fire intensity has severely damaged giant redwood sequoias in past wildfires.

WAWONA, Calif. — The iconic 20-story tall giant redwood sequoia near Yosemite known as the Grizzly Giant could be in danger because of the Washburn Fire.

As helicopters pounded the small town of Wawona with water and fire retardant Wednesday afternoon, a sprinkling system was propped up around the Grizzly Giant.

Director of the UC Merced Yosemite and Sequoia Field Station, Breezy Jackson said while giant redwood sequoias are known for being near invincible to fires—they've become more prone to damage because of the intensity of fires.

"When a fire enters a Giant Sequoia grove in the canopy, the trees have no resistance there. It's only if a fire enters on the ground that the trees are really able to persist," Jackson said.

The Grizzly Giant tree rests on Mariposa Grove, the largest giant sequoia grove in Yosemite National Park.

"The Mariposa Grove is incredibly important. It's the first federally protected land that was signed into federal protection by Abraham Lincoln," Jackson said.

Prescribed burns laid across the area for years have provided some protection to redwood sequoias.

Earth and Environmental professor Keith Putirka of California State University, Fresno further explained the importance of these prescribed burns.

"There isn't enough fuel on the ground to really heat up the trees, and that's apparently playing a huge role in protecting the grove," he told ABC10.

But as California drought conditions remain significant, the threat of wildfires permanently damaging redwood giant sequoias will persist.

"We are in our second year of La Niña phase where we have had very little rainfall," Putirka said.

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