“They are not fireproof,” Negley said. “I wish people knew that. They are resistant to fire, but when it burns hot, they can die. We have dead mature Giant Sequoias right now in Nelder Grove that died because of fire.”

FISH CAMP, California –Information officers with a team overseeing the Railroad Fire confirmed Friday night what many in the Mountain Area never wanted to hear, the Sierra Star reports. 

The raging inferno, near Fish Camp and Yosemite National Park, breached the northwest boundary of Nelder Grove in the afternoon, and could threaten some 100 Giant Sequoias that grown in its sprawling, 1,540-acre wilderness for more than 2,500 years.

 The blaze grew by more than 1,400 acres throughout the day to the northeast and southeast of Fish Camp. It is now at 4,360 acres, and 10% contained. Those containment estimates likely come as the fire’s western flank holds strong, officials said previously at a community meeting.

Alex Olow, information officer with the South Central Sierra Interagency Management Team, said the problems remain on the eastern end. He said the fire was burning around Road 5S18 in the grove, located at its northwest corner, near where the Hawksworth and Granddad trees are located.

The Chimney Tree, looking vaguely elephantine or mammothlike from this angle, is the main attraction of the aptly named Chimney Tree Trail. You can walk through it, just like the tunnel trees in the Mariposa and Tuolumne Groves, and the opening is so large that a pair of mature pines are growing out of it (the second one is on the other side of the tree).

Olow said the night crew – with some 590 personnel, nine hand crews, four helicopters, 30 engines, seven dozers, and 12 water tenders – would concentrate their efforts on that area to prevent the flames from creeping further into the grove and its ancient trees. He said the defense efforts would last all night, as needed.

The Summerdale and Nelder Grove campgrounds have now been closed, joining the Big Sandy campground to their north that was evacuated Thursday.

Olow noted though the breach happened to the west of Sugar Pine, which remains evacuated alongside Fish Camp and locations like Tenaya Lodge, the fire didn’t appear to be headed in that direction.

Brenda Negley, a volunteer Interpretive Ranger with the U.S. Forest Service who recently published a book about the history of Nelder Grove, said she felt the sequoias on Nelder Ridge, near where the breach happened, would be the most susceptible to flames.

She said if the fire got into that area, and followed a trail leading east, many millenia-old guardians of the iconic forest would be threatened.

“If it reaches the area of (Hawksworth and Granddad trees) and heads east, it will get to Nelder Basin where a majority of our mature trees are, including the 22nd largest sequoia in the Sierra Nevadas, the Nelder Tree,” Negley said. “It is extremely dense there. The (Hawksworth and Granddad trees) are just inside the Nelder Grove’s boundary.”

Negley added though some have noted Giant Sequoias can actually benefit from fires, the majestic trees in Nelder Grove are “definitely threatened” due to numerous factors. Among them, she said, were a lack of burning and thinning operations in previous years, clear cutting in the late 1880s, and thick duff, or decaying vegetation, surrounding the generations-old trees.

“They are not fireproof,” Negley said. “I wish people knew that. They are resistant to fire, but when it burns hot, they can die. We have dead mature Giant Sequoias right now in Nelder Grove that died because of fire.”

In a positive sign, more than a dozen firefighting trucks from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services were seen in Oakhurst earlier Friday, headed to stage at the base camp at Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park.

For more updates on the efforts throughout the day on the Railroad Fire, which started spreading to the northeast before winds shifted it towards Nelder Grove, click here.

The fire is mostly moving away from Fish Camp and Sugar Pine, officials said, and locations such as Tenaya Lodge, Narrow Gauge Inn, and Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad still stand.

Highway 41 remains closed in the Cedar Valley area, with no traffic allowed through to Yosemite National Park. A barbecue to support the Cedar Valley Volunteer Fire Department, set for Saturday, was still going to be held at its fire station. Click here for that story.