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A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upward of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

The big picture: State Route 180, known as Generals Highway, has been closed since the KNP Complex Fire first threatened the Sequoia National Park last month.

  • The affected trees are located along this highway, which connects the Giant Forest, home to the General Sherman Tree, the world's largest tree by volume, and Grant Grove — where the General Grant Tree, the second-largest tree on Earth, is situated, per the statement.
  • There's also an unspecified number of "hazard trees" in the backcountry in addition to the ones along the highway, according to the statement.

Threat level: The blaze has burned about 138 square miles of forest and was 60% contained on Saturday night, per the national parks' statement, first issued Friday. Cooler weather has "helped slow the flames, and the area was expected to see rain starting Sunday," the Los Angeles Times notes.

  • Officials said earlier this month they've yet to determine the full extent of the damage from the KNP Complex Fire, but hundreds of the iconic trees may have been killed, per the Washington Post.

For the record: The KNP Complex Fire has been burning since Sept. 9 after two lightning-ignited fires merged.

Context: Studies show human-caused climate change is driving an increase in the likelihood and severity of droughts and heat waves and, consequently, wildfires, per Axios' Andrew Freedman.

Go deeper

How early is "too early" for a Christmas tree?

Data: Axios survey; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios; Illustrations: Aïda Amer/Axios

While many Christmas celebrations in central Ohio kicked off last weekend, it appears our readers mostly like to keep their holidays separate.

Your take: A majority of you won't be putting up Christmas trees until after the Thanksgiving dinner table has been cleared, according to our very scientific survey.

Tampa's timing of "O Tannenbaum"

Data: Axios survey; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios; Illustrations: Aïda Amer/Axios

We asked: When is it acceptable to put up a Christmas tree?

  • The results are in.
2 hours ago - Health

Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data from South Africa suggests the Omicron variant spreads more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant, and that immunity from prior infection doesn't appear to protect a person very well against Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The findings are extremely preliminary, and there are still many open questions about how well vaccines work against the variant. But these initial breadcrumbs of data are helping the world begin to understand what it's up against.

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