Wildfire dies down near grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park



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Firefighters in northern California are battling two huge wildfires. One destroyed at least 13 homes. The other is burning in Yosemite National Park. (July 29)

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YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California — The section of a wildfire burning close to one of Yosemite National Park's treasured giant sequoia groves died down and got no closer to the grove, park officials said Thursday morning.

Revised estimates put the fire about 2 miles away from the Merced Grove, not 10 as initially thought, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said. Still, she said the fire had died down in the area, and the grove was not under any imminent threat.

Crews have widened fire lines that were created around the grove during last year's massive Rim Fire as a precaution. Officials are also considering thinning out the grove to reduce potential fuel sources.

The fire had burned 6 and 1/4 square miles and destroyed a home and a duplex. It was 34 percent contained. About 50 homes remained evacuated.

Cobb said firefighters have been hampered by steep terrain, low shrubbery and thick vegetation that have made accessing the blaze difficult. Temperatures have also been over 100 degrees.

"The conditions in general are pretty tough," she said.

The grove is one of three stands of giant sequoias in Yosemite. It has 20 to 30 mature giant sequoias, Cobb said.

The towering trees grow only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and can live longer than 3,000 years.

The park's biggest stand of giant sequoias, the Mariposa Grove, has 500 mature giant sequoias.

Though some camping sites were closed and there was smoke visible in Yosemite's famed valley, officials said the park was largely unaffected.

Fire crews also were battling a blaze in Sierra National Forest about 60 miles northeast of Fresno that was creeping closer to the Mammoth Pool Reservoir, a popular recreation spot that supplies drinking water.

The blaze was about a mile away from the reservoir and crews were focusing their efforts on preventing its spread there, though the reservoir was not in immediate danger, said fire spokesman Dan Ware. But, if the fire flares up, it could pose a threat, he said.

"There's going to be a lot of push to protect Mammoth Pool," Ware said.

The fire had grown to nearly 11 square miles. It was 10 percent contained.

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