The KNP Complex Fire, which started Thursday after lightning strikes, has burned just over 3000 acres in the Sequoia National Park. There are two fires making up the complex, the Colony Fire located near Crystal Cave Road and the larger Paradise Fire near Paradise Ridge, northeast of Mineral King.
The Paradise Fire is the biggest threat because it’s burning so close to the communities of Mineral King and Three Rivers. Right now, Mineral King is under mandatory evacuations and voluntary evacuations are in place for part of Three Rivers. Sequoia National Park and Generals Highway has closed for public safety.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Fire Information Officer Mark Ruggiero said both fires are burning at 6,000 feet, where dead trees are providing lots of fuel.
“It's a difficult process. These fires are in two tough locations so it's going to take some time,” Ruggiero said.
There are threats to infrastructure in the park, but the fires are not threatening any Sequoia trees yet. Ruggiero said steep and dense terrain have forced firefighters to stay out of the area.
“It's similar conditions to what the Creek Fire burned northeast of Fresno last year, and therefore it's very dangerous to put firefighters into those conditions, into those areas,” he said.
Most firefighting efforts have been airborne with fire retardant. Despite the fact that firefighting resources are scarce in California due to the larger Caldor and Dixie fires, Ruggiero said the Paradise Fire remains a top priority because of its proximity to communities.
“It's become increasingly harder to get engines, get hand crews, things like that to get into the park, but we are getting those resources,” Ruggiero said.
Extra hand crews, engines and air support are expected to arrive by Wednesday this week to work both fires.
In the meantime, Kings Canyon National Park remains open, but visitors are advised to be cautious with wildfire smoke. Residents are encouraged to check for fire updates on the National Wildfire Coordinating Group website.
Because of extreme fire risk, the U.S. Forest Service has closed all national forests across California through September 17.