Sequoia Holdover Fire

The AP has an article out today, “A giant sequoia tree in California is still smoldering 9 months after it caught fire.”


A giant sequoia tree in Sequoia National Park is still smoldering nine months after it caught fire during last summer’s wildfires.

National park scientists were surveying the damage caused by last year’s Castle Fire  when they discovered the burning giant sequoia in the remote Board Camp Grove earlier this week. They said the discovery shows just how dry conditions in the central Sierra have been this year.

“The fact areas are still smoldering and smoking from the 2020 Castle Fire demonstrates how dry the park is,” said Leif Mathiesen, assistant fire management officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, in a statement. 

“With the low amount of snowfall and rain this year, there may be additional discoveries as spring transitions into summer,” he added.

I hesitate to disagree with an AFMO who is on the scene, but it is not at all unusual for small hot spots to survive a winter, even a heavy winter. It happened in 2018 after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge, an area that gets 60 to 80 inches of rain a year. I say this is not to downplay the drought in Calif., but to offer some perspective. Holdover and “sleeper” fires are not unusual.

7 thoughts on “Sequoia Holdover Fire”

  1. The CZU fire, near Santa Cruz, still has multiple holdovers from last year. CalFire is using an aerial infrared device to find hot spots, then sending ground units into the burn to find it, and eliminate the hazard. There are 4 of them in Big Basin State Park, right now, with others elsewhere.

  2. I too spent my formative years studying the forests of Big Basin and am not looking forward to finding out how many old growth trees were cut down during mop up simply because the were still smoking after the fire was put out, which is natural and normal for them. I’ve long been an advocate of putting water tender on burning snags to monitor and contain the essential work fire does in creating habitat.

    This also brings up an interesting lesson regarding fire ecology… While timber industry backed scientist go on and on about fire suppression and fuels build up and how unnatural it is and how we need way more logging and burning everywhere because of so many wild claims that Indigenous people burned the hell out of everything everywhere all the time, there’s way more to it than that. Some references:

    “Most oral history and biological evidence of Indian fire use has been irretrievably lost with the passage of time (Baker 2002; Barrett and Arno 1999; Kaye and Swetnam 1999). What little remains seems woefully inadequate for deriving the overly broad conclusions presented by Williams (2002, 2004) and Pyne (1982).”

    “We believe that it is time to deflate the rapidly spreading myth that American Indians altered all landscapes by means of fire. In short, we believe that the case for landscape-level fire use by American Indians has been dramatically overstated and overextrapolated. Scant Historical Record Early-day accounts by EuroAmericans provide a weak basis for interpreting precontact Indian cultures. As Williams (2004) points out in Fire Management Today, “European explorers and settlers rarely saw or understood the cause.”

    The lesson here for me when it comes to redwoods is that it’s not necessarily fire suppression in a broad sense, but in a more specific sense of suppression of root fires and snag fires as long term ignition sources / normal ecological function that replenishes snag habitat.

    These days there will be no more recruitment of chimney trees or hollowed out trunks because they are cut down before they have a chance. I’ve seen way too many firefighters on TikTok and Reddit gleefully showing off their felling of massive redwoods on public park lands and that’s a huge ecological loss! These smoldering snags and root fires teach us how these ecosystem adapted to fire ecology of long ago not as a fire that moves through during a fire season that lasts a month or so, but as fires that seed the ecosystem with smoldering that can last many years years and periodically re-ignite themselves and seed new fires with wind carried embers during high wind events.

    Of course, maybe it wasn’t as prevalent as we think, especially on the coast of California where rainfall records of 70-100 inches a year were cut in half after the old growth ecosystems were logged off / no longer had as much influence in increasing fog and rain and now due to climate change average precipitation has been cut in half again. So there’s a tremendous lack of clarity about the subject other than the fact that there’s not much left of the mighty redwoods that until the last ice age were thriving all across the northern hemisphere for a 1/4 of a billion years.

    • I highly doubt that State officials will be in favor of ‘Preserving Wildfires’. Same for the Feds. And, there is also the fact that there is no logging in Big Basin. The mere presence of redwood trees doesn’t provide significantly more annual precipitation. I doubt that is a provable claim.

      If lightning fires, alone, don’t burn off all the excess fuels today, we cannot extrapolate that they kept fuels to a minimum, throughout California. The presence of large thick-barked pines and vast acreages of bearclover indicate that those areas were regularly managed by pre-European residents. Numbers of fires ignited by lightning are probably a constant, over many thousands of years.

      • Wow… You sure can pack a lot of ill-informed belief rather than into just two paragraphs with zero references to back it up. Kinda embarrassing for you. But let’s look at reality instead of the land of pretend you believe in:

        –I worked with Dr Rudolph Becking of HSU, who was one of the leaders in establishing Redwood National Park, and he measure an average of a 1/2 foot of precipitation in the dry season in old growth coastal redwood redwood forest due to the way giant old growth trees capture fog and drip it down on the ground around the tree’s drip line.

        –I worked with conservationist Olive Meyer who led the failed effort in the 1940’s to protect the Old growth forest in Butano and Pescadero that’s on the other side of the ridge from Big Basin and she has rainfall totals prior to logging of these last old growth forests in the headwaters of the SF peninsula showing annual average precipitation in these areas of 60 inches per year and dropping down to an average of 30 inches once these area were all logged off in the 60’s. There’s been hundreds of scientific studies of this basic concept on every continent in the world. It’s called the biotic pump:

        –Presence of thick barked trees and bear clover is not an indication of pre-European management with fire, but a belief that is emotionally appealing to you, but that you you can’t reference with valid scientific research. But I get it, the descendants of those who practiced genocide on a massive scale like to make up pretend stories about all the people they killed off to steal their land.

        –Number of lighting strikes are not constant, but fluctuate wildly based on many factors especially climate change. “In the fastest-warming part of the planet, the Arctic has reported an increase in lightning over the past decade. A recent study suggests that the number of annual summertime lightning strikes above a latitude of 65° North rose from around 35,000 in 2010 to nearly 250,000 in 2020, Nature reported”

        –The 13,000 lightning strikes in 72 hours last August that led to massive fires all over California has never occurred before in recorded history: “It was the greatest 3-day lightning total in the entire period during the midsummer (June-August) period.”

        • “Rainfall” from redwood trees is more of a function of atmospheric moisture along the coastline than it is about redwood trees. Many coastal species do the same thing. If you’re comparing forests on different sides of a ridge, then you’re talking about apples versus oranges.

          Frequent fire zones comprised of old growth pines and bearclover are obviously the result of native burning. It is easy to burn, often with excellent results. Yes, the ‘palefaces’ have also learned from their examples.

          Regarding lightning, over millennia, the lightning strikes are probably a constant, with all other things being equal. I dare you to show me a study of how ‘climate change’ affects the amount of lightning strikes. (Of course, there can be no longterm study, due to a lack of past history and data under ‘climate change’.) Your claim cannot be supported with valid longterm studies or data.

          Lightning busts happen fairly often. The “Siege of 1987” happening was probably worse, in individual ignitions. On my Ranger District, for that singular event, we had over 40 separate wildfires. A few other Ranger Districts had similar numbers. Other units all had wildfires. Dispatchers didn’t want to hear from you if your fire(s) were not over 5000 acres, in the early going.

          Again, you assume all sorts of bad things about me, as well as assuming similar things about the forestry, in general. You cite blogs for some of your points, as well. I cite my 25 years of experience, on 29 different National Forests, across the country. Even though I am retired, you assume I am still part of the problems in our forests. Again, do you do this to EVERYONE you debate on the Internet?


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