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Giant sequoia smoldering after more than a year

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POSTED July 9, 2013 8:39 p.m.

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK (AP) — An ancient giant sequoia has been smoldering for more than a year in Sequoia National Park, with the small fire even surviving a full Sierra Nevada winter, National Park Service officials said.

The smoldering sequoia has caused the temporary closure of a small part of the Congress Trail, a popular path dotted with giant trees that winds into the heart of the Giant Forest. Park staff have been escorting visitors through an additional short section of the trail to avoid debris falling from the burning tree.

The Fresno Bee reports that the fire started in June 2012 during a prescribed burn to eliminate brush and make the forest less prone to large wildfires. An ember from that burn probably landed on the giant sequoia's crown and started the fire.

Sequoia spokeswoman Linda Mutch said a fire has not kept alight through the winter in the park for at least 45 years.

Giant sequoias, the largest living things on Earth, can typically withstand fires that serve to clear out brush and small trees. Forest managers use prescribed fires to restore a forest's health — but those fires typically fizzle out either because they run out of brush or are extinguished by precipitation.

Officials say the sequoia smoldered through the winter because of dry conditions, including extremely low levels of snow and rain this year.

While park officials say they don't plan to extinguish the smoldering sequoia, spot fires from falling embers will be suppressed, they said.

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