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A plume of smoke and flames rises in the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest on Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.

A U.S. Forest Service vehicle at the Sequoia National Park historic park entrance sign, which has been wrapped in fire-resistant foil along Generals Highway. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

What's happening: Park officials said in a statement just after 1am Sunday ET that the blaze had reached the grouping of sequoias known as the "Four Guardsmen," which mark the entrance to the Giant Forest.

  • But the statement from the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks added that "fuel removal efforts by firefighters, combined with structure wrap applied by crews to the base of the iconic sequoia trees, successfully protected these national treasures."

Threat level: The KNP Complex fire was expected to remain active throughout the night, per InciWeb. A red flag warning was in place through Sunday.

  • "Crews are preparing for changes and possible significant increases in fire activity," according to a statement from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks earlier Saturday.

Zoom in: Lightning ignited both the Paradise and Colony Fires on Sept. 10.

  • John Wallace, an operations chief with the incident command team in charge of battling the wildfire, confirmed in a live-streamed update Saturday that "we now have one fire that grew together yesterday."
  • The blaze had burned across 17,857 acres and was 0% contained as of Saturday, per the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Zoom out: California has this year been hammered by multiple large wildfires, and this mega-blaze is among 10 large fires burning in the state. 73 large blazes are burning across the U.S., according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

  • A UN report found last month that there's an "unequivocal" connection between human-caused global warming and extreme weather events.

Flashback: Last year's Castle Fire that raged across the Sierra Nevada destroyed 10% to 14% of Earth's mature redwood trees, a draft report from National Park Service scientists found in June.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details on the fire and further context.

Go deeper

Senate confirms Charles Sams III as first Native American to head National Park Service

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The Senate this week voted to unanimously confirm Charles Sams III as director of the National Park Service, making him the first Native American to head the agency.

State of play: Sams is the first director to be confirmed by the Senate in five years, AP reports. Jonathan Jarvis, who was confirmed under the Obama administration, left the position in 2017 and, since then, the agency has been led by acting directors.

5 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems fear supply-chain blame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As supply-chain kinks drive up prices and disrupt holiday shopping, Democrats are scrambling to show action and deflect blame.

Why it matters: With their party controlling both the White House and Capitol, vulnerable Democrats worry supply-chain snafus will hurt them in next year's midterms.