Fire threatening Sequoia National Park grows five times in size, forcing evacuations

Fire threatening Sequoia National Park grows five times in size, forcing evacuations
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Two wildfires sparked by lightning strikes last week grew roughly five times in size Tuesday, with blazes towering across more than 5,000 acres in California as officials worry of threats to Sequoia National Park.

Mark Ruggiero, a spokesperson for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said Tuesday that the Paradise and Colony fires, which are collectively known as the KNP Complex, grew to 5,681 acres by Tuesday afternoon, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Ruggiero added that the fires have “intensified tremendously” in recent days, causing multiple evacuation orders and warnings.

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On Monday evening, the Paradise Fire crossed the middle fork of the Kaweah River and the Generals Highway, according to the National Park ServicePark officials then evacuated employees from the Ash Mountain Headquarters Complex and nearby communities.

Clay Jordan, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said during a community meeting Tuesday that due to the steep terrain, crews have had difficulty reaching the blaze, adding that air teams “literally started painting the mountains red with retardant.”

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Tuesday evening that parts of the foothills community of Three Rivers were under mandatory evacuation orders, while others remained under warnings.

Officials at Tuesday’s community meeting said 110 structures were in the mandatory evacuation zone, with 1,189 in areas under evacuation warnings.

Sheriff’s Office Lt. Gary Marks said authorities will be knocking on doors to notify as many residents as possible in the evacuation warning zone about the growing risks posed by the fire.

“This is a beautiful community but it’s only got one way in, one way out, and that’s [State Route] 198,” he said.

The fires have forced Sequoia National Park to close, while the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park remains open.

The park closure includes all facilities, such as campgrounds, visitors centers and park stores. Full refunds are being offered for existing reservations. No new reservations are being allowed at this time.