Hundreds of trees in California’s oldest state park have been damaged by wildfires—but experts say they’ll recover with time.
The CZU August Lightning Complex Fire in Santa Cruz County has ravaged the 118-year-old Big Basin Redwoods State Park. California’s oldest state park is home to a towering redwood forest with some of the giants ranging between 500 and 1,800 years old. Many of the trees, including an ancient redwood, have collapsed into ashes along with the park’s historic core and campgrounds headquarters buildings, according to the park’s statement. All day visitors, campers and staff have been evacuated and the park has been closed until further notice.
Two fallen redwoods in Big Basin Redwoods State Park pic.twitter.com/MJvzjeMAqn
— EthanBaron (@ethanbaron) August 21, 2020
This intense blaze has not only displaced local communities, but residents have watched so much of this precious ecosystem go up in flames along with their memories. Smoke and sky have replaced what was once a breathtaking canopy.
“We feel like we have lost an old friend. And we imagine that many of you will feel the same way. For millions of people, Big Basin is the place where they first experienced the majesty of the redwoods—where they were humbled and inspired standing amidst a grove of towering trees that have stood resolute for thousands of years. Those memories will live on”, the Sempervirens Fund, a nonprofit that protects and preserves redwoods, said in a statement.
An Associated Press reporter and photographer hiked the renowned Redwood Trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Monday and confirmed most of the ancient redwoods had withstood the blaze. https://t.co/WGmK9wN7rj
— erin mccann | (@mccanner) August 24, 2020
Associated Press journalists took the Redwood Trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Monday and confirmed that many of the ancient redwoods have survived the fire, although many of them have been reduced to stumps.
#Timelapse: Sudden explosive development of the #CZUAugustLightningComplex #fire burning tonight in San Mateo & Santa Cruz Counties. @NWSBayArea @CALFIRECZU #CAwx pic.twitter.com/pADZ3B4Trk
— Jeff Boyce (@Negative_Tilt) August 19, 2020
The Sempervirens Fund’s stated that “redwood forests are resilient and fire-adapted,” and in some cases, deliberate fires that clean up the forest floor have been advantageous “since the purposeful burning done by indigenous people who tended this landscape for thousands of years.”
Redwoods are characteristically adapted to withstand heat with incredibly thick bark (which can be up to a foot thick) that not only insulates it but protects dormant buds that can sprout back to life after a fire, according to Kristen Shive, director of science for Save the Redwoods League. She also noted that the trees may survive but the incinerated crowns will take years to regrow and look as they did before.
California is currently experiencing some of the worst wildfires on record. To say that this combined with suffocating smoke, oppressive heatwave, and the crippling pandemic is apocalyptic, is an understatement. Over the last week, there have been 560 blazes, with around 24 of them being significant and scorching over 771,000 acres. Many were caused by a rare spell of dry lightning, where smaller fires merged into some of the largest in state history.
While fires are a natural part of the ecosystem, clearing away growth and debris to make way for new plants, the added stress of extreme drought and soaring temperatures may jeopardize the recovery of these beautiful redwoods.
How you can help:
You can donate to the Big Basin Recovery Fund.
Photo by Peter Gonzalez on Unsplash