Amid California wildfires, saving world's largest trees comes down to tin foil

Giant sequoias in Northern California have been wrapped in tin foil to protect against the KNP Complex Fire.
Giant sequoias in Northern California have been wrapped in tin foil to protect against the KNP Complex Fire. Photo credit Getty Images

As fire ravages through Sequoia National Park, firefighters are taking desperate, yet creative, measures to save Northern California’s ancient trees.

Giant sequoias are being wrapped up in fire resistant aluminum material as a final defense against the raging KNP Complex Fire.

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"It’s literally just taking this foil and wrapping the trees just like you would if you were making dinner at home in the oven, something that you’re wrapping in foil," Tim Borden, the Sequoia Restoration and Stewardship Manager at Save the Redwoods League told KCBS Radio. "You just wrap it as far as you can up the truck and then move on to the next tree."

The wrapping tactic is a major undertaking as some sequoias, like the famous General Sherman, can reach 36 feet in diameter and 275 feet tall. Borden said not every tree can be wrapped as that would just be too big a job. Instead, officials are selecting the oldest and the largest to receive the special treatment.

"Five of the ten largest trees in the world in this species of giant sequoia are in the giant forest," he explained. "Fire crews are going to select the most important trees, culturally the most significant trees, and those are the ones that are going to get wrapped."

Crews are also clearing all of the brush from around these trees to give them a better shot at surviving the approaching fire. Near Lake Tahoe, some homes that were wrapped in protective material survived the recent Caldor Fire while others were destroyed. The foil-like blanket will help the trees fight off the heat, but it won't save them from the KNP Complex Fire if they are engulfed in flames, officials said.