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Major Effort Underway To Save “Giants”

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Firefighters working in temperatures near 100 degrees in the southern Sierra Nevada are trying to save some of the world´s largest and oldest trees.

Threatened by a 57,000-acre blaze in the Sequoia National Forest are groves of giant trees including the Packsaddle Giant, which has the fourth-largest circumference of any sequoia.

Firefighters bulldozed a firebreak and set backfires, as flames moved within one mile of the Packsaddle Grove. Only two miles from the wildfire is the “Trail of 100 Giants.”

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Matt Mathes says saving the biggest trees is a top priority. He calls the sequoias “priceless.” Individual sequoias can live more than 3,200 years, with their trunks enduring countless fires as part of natural cycles. But fires can kill them when flames reach the crowns of smaller trees and leap to the lower limbs of the sequoias.

More than 1,500 firefighters, 12 air tankers, and 10 helicopters are battling the wildfire, which displaced at least 1,000 campers and residents. Firefighters have concentrated on keeping the wildfire away from the giant trees and about 200 homes.

The cost of fighting the blaze allegedly started by an illegal campfire on Sunday (see related story below) has reached $2.8 million.

But, as of 9 a.m. this morning, California´s largest wildfire of the year, burning about 140 miles southeast of Sonora, is only five percent contained.