Fire-proof blankets for world’s largest tree

Fire-proof blankets for world’s largest tree

Firefighters in the US are optimistic that the use of fire-proof blankets will save General Sherman – a 75-metre tall giant sequoia in California – along with other trees and buildings in Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest.

Wildfires are spreading through California’s Sierra Nevada and threatening General Sherman – the world’s largest tree. In a bid to prevent potential damage firefighters are using the fire-resistant blankets to help protect them.

Made from aluminium the wrapping is capable of withstanding intensive heat for short periods of time. They’ve been used successfully for a few years in the US – recently homes that were encased in the materials survived a wildfire near Lake Tahoe, while others that were unprotected were destroyed.

The firefighters have first cleared the base of the trees and buildings being wrapped and then placed the aluminium blankets around them to shield them from embers and the intense heat. In addition, the firefighters also took preventative measures by using prescribed burns to minimise what fuel is available once a fire takes hold.

The KNP Complex fire – made up of the Paradise fire and the Colony fire – is the fifth severe wildfire to blaze through the region in six years. Last year’s Castle Fire was estimated to destroy up to 14% of all the large sequoia trees in the region, says a National Park Service and US Geological Survey report.

Hundreds of firefighters, helicopters and water-dropping planes are all being used in the area to try to stop the wildfire from spreading.