Four people seriously injured Thursday afternoon when they were struck by a falling tree were released from the hospital Friday morning. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park officials say of the four injured, one was from CALFIRE and three were Corpsmembers with the California Conservation Corps. The group was working on the southern end of the KNP Complex in Sequoia National Park when the tree fell around 3 p.m. Thursday. All four were airlifted to a hospital and treated overnight.
Nate Bogenschutz, fire information officer with the KNP Complex says the risk of falling trees has been a major safety hazard for fire crews accessing rugged and remote terrain.
“Due to the fire that’s come through the area and also with the trees burning, it’s just a constant concern throughout the fire area,” he says.
Although trees may be dead or dying, many are still standing and have the potential to topple over. It’s one of the reasons why firefighters have not been able to fully assess tree damage in the park and surrounding forest. Many sequoia groves are located in remote areas and access has been blocked by downed trees.
South of the KNP Complex, fire crews have been using drones to try to see activity in some of those groves. Windy Fire public information officer Jim Mackensen says that doesn’t give the full picture.
“Was this tree just damaged? Or was it mortally damaged? Or is it going to come back? It takes time to see what the tree’s going to actually do,” he says.
Special forest teams have been digging into roots to check for smoldering fires. Mackensen says they’re also working high above ground.
“We had a couple of smoke jumpers who are also tree climbers, have climbed several of the sequoias with hose lines to put water on spots that are smoldering. So, it’s quite the operation,” he says.
Officials say it could take months to get a full report on the impacts. The Windy Fire burning in the Sequoia National Forest has increased containment to 80%. So far, 97,541 acres have burned after lighting sparked the fire a month ago.
The KNP Complex was also sparked by lightning a month ago and has burned 85,952 acres as of Friday morning. It’s at 11% containment. Fire crews are concentrating efforts in the north and south zone of the fire.