Phew! California’s 2,000-year-old redwoods survived the wildfires

With over 1 million acres torched and 12,000 buildings burnt down, the California wildfires have already been the worst in history. But just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, the wildfires started sweeping through California’s oldest state park: Big Basin Redwoods State Park.

Park rangers feared many trees in a grove of old-growth redwoods, some of them 2,000 years old and among the tallest living things on Earth, may finally have succumbed. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case.

An Associated Press reporter and photographer hiked the renowned Redwood Trail on Monday and confirmed most of the ancient redwoods had withstood the blaze. Among the survivors is one dubbed Mother of the Forest. “That is such good news, I can’t tell you how much that gives me peace of mind,” said Laura McLendon, conservation director for the Sempervirens Fund, an environmental group dedicated to the protection of redwoods and their habitats.

Redwood forests are meant to burn, she said, so reports earlier this week that the state park was “gone” were misleading. The historic park headquarters is gone, as are many small buildings and campground infrastructure that went up in flames as the fire swept through the park about 45 miles south of San Francisco.

“But the forest is not gone,” McLendon said. “It will regrow. Every old-growth redwood I’ve ever seen, in Big Basin and other parks, has fire scars on them. They’ve been through multiple fires, possibly worse than this.”

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