A giant redwood tree is still burning since 2020

In the heart of Sequoia National Park, a huge, centuries-old redwood tree has been burning now since August 2020, when violent fires broke out in California.

There's a huge redwood tree on fire at Sequoia National Park, in the heart of California. And it has been for almost a year. A giant specimen of the most representative tree of the territory that stretches in a coastal strip between California and Oregon has in fact been seen burning by the competent authorities in the northern United States.

The burning redwood has attracted the attention of experts while examining the extent of the damage caused by the fires that unfortunately broke out last year, and that have gone down in history for having even managed to obscure the sun for several days. Still smoldering, the tree was spotted in the distance, perched in the particular area called Board Camp Grove of the park. An area that's also difficult to reach from the main trail.

In all likelihood, the century-old redwood was struck by lightning in August 2020, when flames ate up more than 150,000 acres - or more than 6 square kilometers -, turning the landscape into an almost Martian environment. After catching fire, not even heavy rains and cold winter snows were able to extinguish it, for a phenomenon that could be due to the presence of embers inside the tree. It wouldn't be the first time this has happened, but never for so long under human watch.

Particularly violent fires and the oxygen anyway present inside the trees could trigger this strange circumstance. The same oxygen feeds the fire and protects it from rain and snow, exacerbating the suffering from the plant - by an almost inverse principle to that which drives fireproof fabrics. What is surprising, however, is that the phenomenon should not involve redwoods, notoriously characterized by a strong and resistant bark, even to fire. The explanation for the presence of still-burning flames comes from Leif Mathiesen, fire manager of Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon:

Considering that the areas are still smoking after all this time, due to the 2020 fires, it's clear that the park is overly dry.

This is because a drier soil facilitates the flames to spread, compared to other situations where a wetter environment manages to "fight" the fire.

At the moment, experts do not believe they can intervene, and indeed, it is possible that the situation will get worse as the so-called "fire season" approaches, which in California is expected between July and November. In the meantime, the authorities are planning some controlled fires and will try to reduce the accumulation of shrubs in the undergrowth, to prevent the flames from spreading uncontrollably. The real risk is that the smoke will return to cover, as in 2020, an area eight times the size of Italy.

Andrea Guerriero