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Firefighters use sprinkler system to protect some of California's oldest sequoia trees from raging wildfire at Yosemite National Park

Growing wildfire in Yosemite National Park
Growing wildfire in Yosemite National Park threatens ancient sequoias 02:49

Some of the oldest and largest trees on earth are under threat after a wildfire in Yosemite National Park more than doubled in size in a day. 

Blistering temperatures, low humidity, and heavy terrain have made it difficult for firefighters to gain control of the Washburn Fire, which has grown to over 2,000 acres. 

More than 500 firefighters have been deployed to fight the fire which has taken over the southern corner of Yosemite National Park. 

"So obviously with the higher temperatures, that is going to increase the fire behavior and the intensity of the fire," Fire Station Captain Roy Freitas said. 

The fire's intensity is creating its own weather system, causing updrafts powerful enough to launch debris into the air, officials said. 

The community of Wawona, which surrounds the burning area, has been evacuated. In addition to residents, nearby campers, hikers and vacationers have also been ordered to leave. 

"We've heard about fires on the news. But we really didn't expect it to happen the day that we got here," said Brian Russell, who was among the evacuated.

Interagency hotshot crews have been tasked with strategically planning containment lines to save hundreds of iconic sequoias. 

"I'm standing right in front of the Grizzly Giant, which is arguably one of the most famous trees on earth. And we've got a sprinkler system set up around it, and we're trying to give it some preventative first aid, really," one firefighter said. 

In Utah, record-breaking heat and high winds are fueling massive wildfires in the state. The Jacob City Fire has spread to almost six square miles with zero containment. 

Another fire in Utah, named the Halfway Hill Fire, also continues to burn. Officials said four people have been arrested in connection to that fire after they admitted to abandoning a campfire that is believed to have caused the fire. 

"We need to be super cautious and aware, especially during these red flag days that we have. There's going to be many more to come," Utah Division of Forestry Fire & State Lands Coordinator Kayli Yardley said.  

In the past few years, mega-fires have destroyed 75,000 sequoias in California. Scientists in the past have called the trees "fire-proof" thanks to their thick barks being difficult to burn. But this has changed due to the intensity of flames caused by climate change.

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