TULARE COUNTY, Calif. — The battle against the KNP Complex transitioned from suppression to recovery Thursday as crews started laying out plans for the safe reopening of Sequoia National Park.
The fire has charred more than 88,000 acres and is 60% contained.
Park officials were much more hopeful now than in the past.
“It’s nice to be with you under much improved circumstances,” Clay Jordan the superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks said.
He announced a damage assessment team had arrived within the past 24 hours to help transition into a recovery phase.
The crew is looking for life and property-threatening situations caused by the fire, which park officials said includes tens of thousands of hazard trees and mudslide-prone areas.
“Not to be overly dramatic but this is real life. An example, the Thomas Fire from a few years ago. The fire itself, unfortunately, killed two people, but it was the post-fire event that killed 21 people,” a fire official said.
Jordan said it’s too early to know when the park will reopen, but it likely won’t be this month or the next.
As far as damages, he said they know one private cabin and outbuilding has been lost, several historic ones burned to the ground and fire that had run through 16 giant sequoia groves. Infrastructure including trails, bridges and roads have also been impacted, but the full extent is still unknown.
The damage assessment is expected to take two weeks. At that time park officials said they’ll have a better idea of a possible opening date.
“We’re doing everything we can, but we want to make sure we’re being safe, and open when it’s really safe to do so,” Sintia Kawasaki-Yee a public affairs officer with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks said.
The meeting was the first in a series, fire officials said they’ll most likely hold the next one when they get the damage assessment results.