Update: 11:54 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 14: Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux is issued mandatory evacuation orders for parts of Three Rivers.
The orders cover Mineral King Drive up to the Sequoia National Park boundary, including structures along both sides of Highway 198. The orders also include Oak Grove Bridge down to Highway 198, including Sierra King Drive, Crest Lane, Hammond Drive, and Oak Grove Drive. However, Dinely Drive is excluded.
Fires threatening Sequoia National Park’s iconic trees continue to grow while 130 firefighters battle to bring the blazes under control.
The KNP Complex fires began overnight Thursday with a lightning strike. On Monday night, the Paradise Fire ran downhill and crossed the middle fork of the Kaweah River and the Generals Highway, park officials said Tuesday morning.
The part of Three Rivers east of the intersection of Highway 198 and North Fork Road is under a voluntary evacuation warning from the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office. However, the evacuation warning area doesn’t extend to residences on North Fork or South Fork roads, officials said. There is a mandatory evacuation order for Mineral King south of the park.
The fires ignited one year after the Castle Fire forced many residents to flee Tulare County’s foothills.
No Imminent Threat to Giant Forest
Both fires were projected to advance in the direction of Giant Forest, home to more than 2,000 giant sequoias including the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on Earth by volume.
“There’s no imminent threat to Giant Forest but that is a potential,” said Mark Ruggiero, fire information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. He estimated that the closest flames were about a mile from the grove.
Part of the Castle Fire destroyed 10% of the sequoias, Ruggiero said.
Ash Mountain Headquarters Evacuated
Because of the increasing danger, the park is evacuating employees from its Ash Mountain Headquarters and nearby housing.
Officials said that fires have scorched a total of 3,024 acres, with the Paradise Fire accounting for 2,531 acres and the Colony Fire 493 acres. There is zero containment thus far.
Monday’s aerial suppression efforts were hindered by poor visibility created by the smoky condition, officials said.
A community meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Three Rivers Memorial Building, 43490 Sierra Dr. The meeting will be live-streamed on the Sequoia-Kings Canyon parks Facebook page, and will be available later there for viewing.
(Associated Press contributed to this article.)