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Wildfire continues to threaten ancient sequoias in Yosemite National Park

4-foot sprinklers are helping, the U. S. Forest Service says, but high temperatures are keeping Mariposa Grove and the Wawona-area trails closed.

A Northern California wildfire continued its destructive march Monday toward a grove of ancient sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park as the Washburn Fire grew to more than 2,300 acres.

Using a 4-foot-tall sprinkler system to ward off damaging flames and maintain much-needed moisture in the air, firefighters worked to create a perimeter around about 500 mature sequoias in the park’s Mariposa Grove.

The Washburn Fire, on the western flank of the Sierra Nevada, was 25% contained by Monday evening. Nearby Wawona remained under threat as high temperatures scorched the region.

There have been no reports of severe damage to any named trees, including the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant.

“Right now the sprinklers are doing a lot of good,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Stanley Bercovitz said.

Asked whether firefighters had made protecting certain trees a priority, Bercovitz simply said: “That’s like asking who’s your favorite child.”

Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley have been protected since President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation in 1864. The grove has a long history of prescribed burning, which greatly reduces the negative impacts of high-severity fires, the National Park Service said in a statement.

The giant sequoias, native in only about 70 groves spread along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, were once considered impervious to flames, but they have become increasingly vulnerable as wildfires, fueled by a buildup of undergrowth from a century of fire suppression and the impact of drought worsened by climate change, have become more intense and destructive.

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