When massive wildfire swept through California's oldest state park last week, it was feared that many trees in a copse of old redwood, some 2,000 years old and some of the tallest living things on earth, may have perished for good.
An Associated Press reporter and photographer hiked the famous Redwood Trail in Big Basin Redwoods State Park Monday and confirmed that most of the old redwoods had withstood the fire.
Among the survivors is a mother of the forest.
An old redwood tree named "Mother of the Forest" is still in California's Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Monday
Another ancient redwood named "Father of the Forest" can be seen up in Redwoods State Park in California's Big Basin on Monday after surviving the devastating fire at the CZU Lightning Complex
A helicopter and crew drop water to extinguish part of the LNU Lightning Complex Fire near Middletown, California
"This is so good news, I can't tell you how reassured I am," said Laura McLendon, conservation director for the Sempervirens Fund, an environmental group dedicated to protecting redwoods and their habitats.
Redwoods should burn, she said. Reports earlier this week that the state park was "gone" are misleading.
The historic park headquarters has disappeared, as have many of the small buildings and campground infrastructure that went up in flames when fire swept through the park about 45 miles south of San Francisco.
"But the forest is not gone," said McLendon.
A redwood forest smoulders in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, California on Monday, August 24, 2020. The devastating fire of the CZU Lightning Complex raced through the park, but most of the redwoods, some of which were up to 2,000 years old, were still standing. (AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The main building of the park destroyed by the fire can be seen after the fire of the CZU August Lightning Complex took place on Monday, August 24, 2020 in Redwoods State Park in the US state of Big Basin, California (AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez) .
Fireman Cody Nordstrom of the North Central Fire Station in Kerman, Calif. Monitors hotspots as he battles the CZU Lightning Complex fire on Sunday, August 23, 2020 in Bonny Doon, Calif. (AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez) .
A fallen redwood tree with old growth falls across a road leading to the park's headquarters in Redwoods State Park in Big Basin, California on Monday, August 24, 2020. (AP Photo / Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A sign damaged by wildfire greets visitors in California's Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Monday
A fallen redwood tree in the historic protected state park pictured above after the CZU fire went through
The devastating fire of the CZU Lightning Complex raced through the park, but most of the redwoods, some of which were 2,000 years old, were still standing
& # 39; It will grow back. Every old redwood I've ever seen in the Big Basin and other parks has burn scars. They went through multiple fires, possibly worse than that. & # 39;
When forest fires, storms, and lightning strike redwood trees, those that don't tip can sprout again.
The mother of the forest, for example, was 329 feet tall, the tallest tree in the park. After the tip broke off in a storm, a new trunk sprouted where the old growth had been.
Trees that fall feed the forest floor and become nurse trees from which new redwoods grow. Forest dwellers, from banana snails to insects, thrive under tree trunks.
On Monday, Steller's jays were looking for insects in the park's partially burned amphitheater and woodpeckers pounding on trees.
Occasionally a thunderous crash echoed through the valley as large branches or burning trees fell.
When the Big Basin opened in 1902, it marked the emergence of redwood protection.
The park now receives around 250,000 visitors annually from around the world, and millions have run the Redwood Trail.
The park only recently reopened after the COVID-19 shutdown and is now closed due to the fire. The road is blocked by several large trees, some waist-high and some still on fire.
Helicopters and crew members haul water to extinguish part of the LNU Lightning Complex Fire near Middletown, California on Monday
The LNU Lightning Complex Fire has become one of the largest wildfires in California history, after a complex that scorched NorCal in 2018
The picture above shows a view of a house that was destroyed by the LNU Lightning Complex Fire on Monday
The fire at the LNU Lightning Complex spans five counties and has set over 350,000 acres on fire. The massive wildfire destroyed at least 870 buildings and is 22 percent of the total
Ash covers the ground around burned trees following the fire at the LNU lightning complex on Lake Berryessa in Spanish Flat, Calif., On Monday
The LNU Lightning Complex Fire burned 350,000 acres in North Bay, leaving four dead and hundreds of buildings destroyed
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, more than 600 forest fires have set more than 1.2 million acres on fire nationwide since mid-August
Sid Torun, owner of MS Torun Family Vineyards, walks through a portion of his property that was burned by the LNU Lightning Complex Fire on Monday
The massive wildfire destroyed at least 870 structures and is only 22 percent contained
Burned cars sit under the skeleton of a tree after the LNU Lightning Complex Fire swept the area on Monday
A home was completely destroyed in the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex in Napa, California on Monday
The picture above shows cars that were destroyed by the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex in Napa, California on Monday
While much remains to be done to rebuild campsites, clear pathways, and manage damaged madrons, oaks and firs, Big Basin will recover, McLendon said.
"The forest is being reset in a way," she said.
Chris Spohrer, superintendent of the State Parks District, said he was delighted to know that the redwoods survived.
He said an assessment team can only review buildings so far and hopes they can inspect the trees in the coming days.
"The reason these trees are so old is because they are really tough," he said.
Three massive forest fires that raged in Northern California after being ignited by more than 13,000 lightning strikes since mid-August, scorched through 1,875 square miles of land, killing seven people.
On Monday, firefighters took a short break from the flames as the humidity rose, but the state is still hovering around dozens of flames, including two record-breaking sizes.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, more than 600 forest fires have set more than 1.2 million acres on fire nationwide since mid-August.
More than 1,200 buildings were destroyed and 14,000 firefighters deployed, some of them working 24-hour shifts.
Firefighters now face three large fire complexes in the Bay Area, all of which are ignited by lightning: the LNU Lightning Complex, the SCU Lightning Complex, and the Santa Cruz Fire, also known as the CZU Lightning Fire.
Three massive forest fires are raging in Northern California, 250,000 people are on evacuation orders and seven have been killed. Firefighters respond to a structural fire in part of the CZU Lightning complex in Boulder Creek, California on Sunday
The flames have burned more than 1.2 million acres, or 1,875 square miles, since mid-August. Firefighters from Barstow put out hotspots along Highway 9 during the fire at the CZU Lightning complex on Sunday
More than 1,200 buildings were destroyed and 14,000 firefighters were used in the fires.
Several firefighters are working together to fight the flames of the CZU Lightning complex in Boulder Creek on Sunday
Firefighters now face three large fire complexes in the Bay Area, all of which are ignited by lightning: the LNU Lightning Complex, the SCU Lightning Complex, and the Santa Cruz Fire, also known as the CZU Lightning Fire (above).
CalFire has released this map showing the location of active fires across the state
The fires are so powerful that smoke is visible from space and extends for hundreds of kilometers across the Pacific.
However, things are looking good. A warning of dry lightning and gusty winds that could start further fires was lifted for the San Francisco Bay Area on Monday.
"Mother Nature has helped us a lot," said Billy See, the Cal Fire commander for a fire complex south of San Francisco.
Yet a quarter of a million people are still under evacuation orders and warnings.
Officials warn people not to return to their homes. Six people returning to a restricted area south of San Francisco to check their properties were caught in a fire and had to be rescued, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office said.
The fires have claimed seven lives so far.
Firefighters fighting a fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco discovered the body of a 70-year-old man in a remote area called Last Chance over the weekend.
He had been reported missing and police had to use a helicopter to reach him in an area of around 40 off-grid homes that had been evacuated.
Resident Austin Giannuzzi cries as he hugs family members by the burned remains of their home during the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Vacaville, Calif., On Saturday
Resident Alyssa Medina reacts after finding an intact cup amid the burned remains of her home during the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Vacaville on Saturday, which was decimated in the LNU Lightning Complex fire
& # 39; Vaca Strong & # 39; can be seen through heavily smoke-filled air on a black hill after flames from the LNU Lightning Complex Fire burn through a rural area of Vacaville
Utility workers repair repairs to lines destroyed by the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex on Monday
The Ben Lomond firefighters work on a fire at the Sequoia Retreat Center during the CZU August Lightning Complex Fires in Ben Lomond on Friday
After the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex, a burned VW Microbus was parked in a driveway in the Spanish Flat community in Napa County, California on Monday
Utility workers are investigating the damage to a mobile home park destroyed by the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex on Monday
"This is one of the darkest periods we've been with this fire," said Chris Clark, assistant director of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office, of the discovery of the man's body.
The LNU fire and the SCU fire both burned more than 500 square miles. The LNU fire in the wine country was the deadliest and most destructive fire of all – leaving five dead and 845 homes destroyed. Three of these victims were in a house that was under evacuation orders at the time of their death.
As of Monday afternoon, the LNU fire in the northern Bay Area and Central Valley will be the second largest in the state's history. It extends over 350,030 hectares and is only 22 percent contained.
The SCU Lightning Complex spanned 349,196 acres and was 10 percent included as of Monday morning. The fire at the SCU Lightning Complex east of San Jose is the third largest fire in the state's history.
"We have never seen the size and complexity of this fire in the past," said Cal Fire Chief Shana Jones.
On Sunday, the flames of the LNU Lightning Complex will leap down Butts Canyon Road. The LNU fire in the wine country was the deadliest and most destructive fire of all – leaving five dead and 845 homes destroyed
A firefighter watches as crews fire backwards on Sunday to contain the Moc fire that burns between Hwy 49 and Hwy 120 off Priest Coulterville Road near Groveland, California
A stove stands on the side of a mobile home park that was destroyed in the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex on Monday in Napa, California
Cal Fire spokesman Steve Kaufmann said lightning was responsible for about 585 fires in the past week and that since August 15, more than 1.1 million acres have been scorched – more than five times the size of New York City fire throughout the state of Rhode Island.
As of Monday, more than 10 million people in the west were under red flag warnings, meaning warm temperatures, low humidity and high winds are an increased risk of fire, according to the National Weather Serivice.
The fires were compounded by evacuations amid the coronavirus pandemic and looting in some areas.
"What we hear from the community is that there is a lot of looting," said Jim Hart, Santa Cruz County sheriff, adding that 100 officers were in patrol areas and anyone who was not authorized to be in evacuation zones has been arrested would.
A view of a home that was destroyed in the fire at the LNU Lightning Complex in Napa, California on Monday. This flame has spread over five counties and destroyed over 870 buildings and is only 22 percent contained
The downtown Sacramento skyline is covered in smoke and the air quality is very poor due to fires in Northern California
Firefighters from Barstow set up hotspots along Highway 9 during the fire at the CZU Lightning complex on Sunday
Firefighters respond to a structural fire along Riverdale Boulevard as the line of fire creeps up Highway 9 during the CZU Lightning complex fire in Boulder Creek, California on Sunday
Fire Chief Mark Brunton with Cal Fire was one of the victims who were robbed while trying to face the fires.
He said that after he left his fire truck to aid direct operations, someone entered it, stole personal items including a wallet and "emptied his bank account".
Governor Newsom has issued a checklist for residents to take with them for three days, including face masks, toiletries, important documents, medication and food and water.
Over the weekend, Newsom said the state had received a statement of the president's disaster as a result of the fires, which means that President Trump is seeking state aid to complement recovery efforts in Lake, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma counties Yolo has released.
This year there was an increase in forest fires. To date, there have been 7,014 fires in 2020, compared to 4,292 in California last year, Governor Gavin Newsom said.
Last year, forest fires charred a total of 260,000 acres and killed three people, according to Cal Fire.
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