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Crews work to protect Yosemite sequoias

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POSTED July 30, 2014 8:33 p.m.

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (AP) — Fire crews strengthened old containment lines on Wednesday to keep a blaze in Yosemite National Park from reaching a grove of treasured giant sequoia trees.

The fire was about 10 miles from Merced Grove, the site of the trees, but flames could reach the grove if the fire becomes extremely active, park spokesman Scott Gediman said.

“We’re not looking at an imminent threat right now,” he said.

Merced Grove is among three stands of giant sequoias in the park. The towering trees grow only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and are among the largest and oldest living things on Earth. They can live longer than 3,000 years and resist fire.

With the exception of some smoke in Yosemite valley, the park itself was largely unaffected by the fire and remained open, Gediman said.

The fire was threatening about 50 homes that remained under evacuation orders. It has destroyed a home and a duplex and burned through more than 5 square miles since it began on Saturday. It was 34 percent contained.

Fire crews also were battling a blaze in Sierra National Forest about 60 miles northeast of Fresno that grew substantially late Tuesday and had spread across nearly 9 square miles. It was threatening about 20 homes, though they were not under mandatory evacuation orders, said Anne Grandy, a spokeswoman for the park.

Several campgrounds and cabins were evacuated and closed, the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement.

Crews were wrapping up work on another fire about 100 miles northwest of the Yosemite blaze in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento.

The fire was 95 percent contained after charring more than 6 1/2 square miles and destroying 19 homes and 47 outbuildings. Mop-up operations were expected to last several days.

More than 400 homes were evacuated at one point, but all the residents have been allowed to return.

In Oregon, a firefighter battling a 100-acre blaze in the southern Cascade Range died in a fall while on a break. Authorities say he apparently lost his balance climbing over a rock and fell backward over a downed log, breaking his back.

In Washington state, officials were pleading with the public to stop donations for wildfire victims after community organizations were flooded with items. The largest wildfire in the state’s history burned hundreds of homes and scorched hundreds of square miles.

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