“Trees that are burned, even in severe fire intensity, about almost 90 percent of the redwoods do survive and I’m expecting that’s what we’re going to see here.”

Ecologist Joanne Kerbavaz, California State Parks, on the effects of a wildfire that burned nearly the entire Big Basin park – home to historic redwoods..

  • Big Basin contains some of California’s most majestic “old growth” redwoods, including two commonly known as “Father of the Forest” or “Mother of the Forest” respectively, thought to be about 2,000 years old.
  • The fires burned the park’s headquarters and nature center.
  • Despite the destruction, many of the trees are expected to survive and continue to grow.
  • The park, founded in 1902, has always drawn visitors in awe of these tall trees, You might recognize the “Auto tree” that people famously drove through because of its size. Estimated to be more than 1,500 years old, the Auto tree was one of the oldest trees in the park and it stretched 282 feet in the air from not just one but two trunks. Over time the tree had endured so many fires that its heartwood had burned out, leaving its interior hollow and distinguished by a large scar. It seemed miraculous to Scripps, but somehow the tree was still alive, and continued to grow. Even more amazing, the gap seemed to be shrinking over time, a tree healing its own wound. READ MORE
  • WHY IT MATTERS: At last report, 28 wildfires have burned California in recent weeks, in one of the most destructive and deadly wildfire seasons in state history. Oregon has also experienced record-breaking wildfires. Weather conditions in both states remain a major obstacles to containment.

Special read on Big Basin: Wildfire Damage at Big Basin State Park Extensive but Largest Redwoods Should Survive

Special read from August 30th: ‘I loved walking into that tree’: Docent waits on the fate of one beloved Big Basin redwood

SmartHER Reflection from Jenna:

Sometimes we want to cover stories, but the headlines just don’t provide the updates we need.
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We can list the facts:
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The wildfires burning out West, in Oregon and California, have reached a level of devastation difficult to describe. The latest information, and underlying politics, feels redundant and insignificant to the loss of life.
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But from the destruction emerges a lesson, perhaps – a fact that may inform us in more ways than one.
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One wildfire burned nearly all of Big Basin State Park, home to some of California’s most spectacular and famous two-thousand year old redwoods. Despite the fire, experts say most of the trees will likely survive.
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Redwoods have a natural fire resistance. They can catch fire, but they can endure the flames.
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The burning of their canopy can allow for new growth. Their root structure provides a foundation that keeps them upright in trying times. When their insides might charr and fall away, their trunk remains.
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The burning becomes part of the tree’s story to thrive.
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“I think the point is that you’re looking at change and in my mind as an ecologist, change is a constant. Many of the systems that we think are fixed and are going to stay the same forever are actually constantly changing. And, on our human timescale, sometimes that’s a hard thing to perceive and accept….what we see in our lifetimes might be different from what anyone sees in the future. And what we see is not necessarily the same thing as people saw in the past.”

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Ecologist for California State Parks, Joanne Kerbavaz, on Big Basin State Park, discussing the damage including the burning of the park’s nature center and headquarters.
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Personal note:
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The news cycle of 2020 challenges us on so many levels – it can feel like a constant report of all that’s unraveling at the seams.
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Good journalism matters because the way we tell our stories, how we honor what we share, how we respect each other through solid reporting becomes our reality.  I created SmartHER News with this goal in mind.
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I look at these trees I grew up loving in California, groves of miracles, intertwined, survivors sharing a time and place, changing, and I think: Are we that different than the forest?
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Jenna
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