An ancient stand of the world’s tallest trees has fallen victim to California’s raging wildfires. The CZU and SCU complex fires near Santa Cruz have ravaged Big Basin State Park. Big Basin is California’s oldest state park and home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco.
Some of the giant redwoods there are more than 50 feet around and as tall as the Statue of Liberty. At 1,000 to 1,800 years old and possible more, some may predate the Roman Empire.
More recently, Big Basin’s ancient trees provided the setting of a forest walk that James Stewart and Kim Novak take in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
Ethan Barron, a business/tech reporter at the Mercury News in San Jose, CA, posted photos to his Twitter account today showing the devastation the fire has caused among the majestic trees.
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The CZU complex fires and the nearby and SCU complex have blackened 229,000 acres thus far, making it the 7th largest fire in the state’s history. It has destroyed nearly 100 structures and threatens over 20,000 others. Despite over 1,000 fire personnel working for the past 3 days, the blazes remain 5 and 10 percent contained, respectively.
Redwood trees are fire-adapted, so the fact that they have burnt does not mean the end of them. Big Basin, in particular, has benefited from the longest, continuous program of prescribed burning anywhere in the state since the purposeful burning done by indigenous people. In 1904, Big Basin was ablaze and, at the time, the New York Times said the forest “seems doomed for destruction.” But Big Basin recovered.
In fact, anything that’s been around this state for centuries has probably survived its share of wildfires. But the twin threats of human encroachment and climate change are profound added stressors. Only four percent of the state’s original redwood stands remain.
Find out more about the trees’ history in the video below.
Earlier today, California Governor Gavin Newsom asked the President Donald Trump to declare a major disaster in his state.
“We have a federal request in…a bipartisan request to get a major disaster declaration here in the state of California.”
Newsom that declaration would, of course provide more funds to the state, but also allow it to be more “flexible” in its wildfire response.
In an update on Friday morning, Cal Fire said it expected to see “significant fire growth.”
“Extreme fire behavior with short and long range spotting are continuing to challenge firefighting efforts,” said the agency. “Fires continue to make runs in multiple directions and impacting multiple communities.”
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