Many of Big Basin's Ancient Redwoods, Including 'Mother of the Forest,' Look to Have Withstood Wildfire

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By , KCBS All News 106.9FM and 740AM

When a massive wildfire swept through California's oldest state park last week it was feared many trees in a grove of old-growth redwoods, some 2,000 years old and among the tallest living things on Earth, may have succumbed to the flames.

But many of the beloved, ancient trees around the renowned Redwood Trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park look to have withstood the blaze.

Among the survivors is one dubbed "Mother of the Forest," a mammoth 300-foot tree measuring 70 feet around at ground level. The fate of "Father of the Forest," which is close by, isn’t yet known.

Redwoods protection organization Sempervirens Fund made headlines last Thursday when the group posted about the extensive damage to the park on its website: "We are devastated to report that Big Basin State Park, as we have known it, loved it, and cherished it for generations, is gone." An Associated Press reporter and photographer hiked the renowned Redwood Trail at Big Basin on Monday, confirming most of the ancient redwoods are still standing.

Their condition, however, varied.

Redwood forest
Photo credit Eric Brooks/KCBS Radio

"Redwoods are very resilient," San Jose Mercury News Reporter Ethan Baron told KCBS Radio’s Jennifer Hodges. Baron himself was able to hike into Big Basin last weekend to survey the extensive damage, shortly after the intense wildfire swept through.

"There were a lot of them that were burned all the way to the crown and many of them had lost their foliage all the way at the top and the tops of the trees had burned and broken off," Baron added. He said some of the redwoods "had burned at the base and just toppled."

Others, he tweeted, were still burning from the inside.

The park’s "historic core," campgrounds, bathrooms, facilities and park headquarters have all been destroyed - "burned to rubble," according to Baron and the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

"It’s going to require expert knowledge to see what the hopes are for those trees," Baron explained. "If they burn too deeply, it affects their ability to transport nutrients and moisture, you know, the water that they need."

More on the condition of the ancient trees is expected to be learned in the coming weeks and months.

The CZU Lightning Complex fires are still burning in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco.

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