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Crews work to keep Yosemite fire from sequoias

Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 4:05 p.m. CDT
Caption
(AP Photo/Al Golub)
A plane drops fire retardant as firefighters battle a blaze in El Portal, Calif., near Yosemite National Park on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Firefighters in the state are also battling another wildfire in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Fire crews strengthened old containment lines on Wednesday, as they tried to keep a blaze in Yosemite National Park away from a grove of treasured giant sequoia trees.

The fire was about 10 miles away from Merced Grove, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.

"If that is real active, it could go to the Merced Grove," he said. "But we're not looking at an imminent threat right now."

Merced Grove is among three stands of giant sequoias in the park. The towering trees grow only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and are among the largest and oldest living things on Earth. They can live for longer than 3,000 years and can resist fire.

Gediman said with the exception of some smoke in Yosemite valley, the park itself was not affected and remained open.

The fire was threatening about 50 homes, which remained under evacuation orders. It has destroyed a home and a duplex and burned through more than 5 square miles since it began on Saturday. It was 34 percent contained.

Fire crews also were battling a blaze in the Sierra National Forest about 60 miles northeast of Fresno that grew substantially late Tuesday and had spread across nearly 9 square miles. It was threatening about 20 homes, though they were not under mandatory evacuation orders, said Anne Grandy, a spokeswoman for the park.

Meanwhile, crews were wrapping up a fire about 100 miles northwest of the Yosemite blaze in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento.

The fire was 90 percent contained on Wednesday morning. It has charred more than 6 1/2 square miles and destroyed 19 homes and 47 outbuildings.

More than 400 homes were evacuated at one point, but all the residents have since been allowed to return home, state fire Battalion Chief Scott McLean said.

In neighboring Oregon, a firefighter who had been working on a 100-acre blaze in the southern Cascade Range died in a fall while on his break. Authorities say he apparently lost his balance climbing over a rock and fell backward over a downed log, breaking his back.

In Washington state, officials were pleading with the public to stop donations for wildfire victims after community organizations were flooded with items. The largest wildfire in the state's history burned hundreds of homes and scorched hundreds of square miles.

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