California Tree Is Still Smoldering After Last Summer’s Wildfires

Scientists and fire crews in California recently discovered a giant sequoia tree that is still smoldering and smoking, almost a year after the surrounding area was devastated by massive wildfires.

The 2020 Castle Fire, which broke out in August of last year and scorched more than 150,000 acres of land, including at least 10 sequoia groves in the region. No one knows how many of these ancient giants were destroyed by the blaze, but one thing is for sure, at least one of them is still smoldering and smoking, almost a year after. National Park Service staff made the shocking discovery earlier this month, while conducting surveys in the area to assess the damage caused by last year’s wildfire. One of them noticed plumes of smoke rising in the distance, and, using a long camera lens, tracked it down to a single sequoia.

Photo: Tony Caprio / National Park Service

The tree, which has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years, was charred but still standing, with what remained of last year’s wildfire still smoldering inside it. Scientists believe that the massive trunk actually protected the fire from rain and snowfall through the winter. Like a wood-burning stove, the inside of a tree can provide an oxygen-rich shelter for a fire to survive.

“The fact areas are still smoldering and smoking from the 2020 Castle fire demonstrates how dry the park is,” Leif Mathiesen, the assistant fire management officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon, said. “With the low amount of snowfall and rain this year, there may be additional discoveries as spring transitions into summer.”

Photo: Tony Caprio / National Park Service

Interestingly, sequoia trees actually depend on fire to spread their seeds and allow new saplings to grow. Scientists discovered that it was only when the flames reached the trees’ branches that their cones, protected by a sticky resin shell, melted and opened, allowing hundreds of small seeds to fall to the ground. Controlled, low intensity fires have been allow to burn in sequoia groves around California ever since.

Still, while it’s not unusual for trees to be smoldering months after a wildfire, the fact that this particular sequoia has been slowly burning for almost a year now is cause for concern. It shows just how dry the area is, and as the drought worsens, it’s very likely that another lightning-caused wildfire could once again wreak havoc in the area.

Posted in News        Tags: , , , ,