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Fire threat to giant sequoias diminishing

More than 1,550 firefighters are working the blaze

Sequoia fire
A water-dropping helicopter flies past a wall of flame in the Giant Sequoia National Monument.  

CHERVIL, California (CNN) -- Fire officials say they're hopeful that the wildfire threat to ancient trees in the Sequoia National Forest is diminishing, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said Friday.

"Firefighters have been working aggressively to put in fire lines and after today, we hope to have all of that fire line completed and we can feel more comfortable about saying the threat to those giant sequoias is diminished," fire information officer Sue Exline said.

More than 1,550 firefighters are battling the blaze, dubbed the McNalley fire, which has burned more than 60,000 acres about 50 miles northeast of Bakersfield.

The fire, which is in its sixth day, is about 10 percent contained, the Forest Service said.

Firefighters have focused their attention on protecting the thousand-year-old sequoia trees and the town of Ponderosa, which were at the greatest risk, Exline said.

Neither the trees nor nearby residential areas have been damaged so far.

CNN's James Hattori says that firefighters are making headway in the California wildfires near the National Forest (July 26)

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Profile: Sequoias National Monument 

Map: Giant Sequoias threatened by wildfires 

She said high humidity is helping firefighters.

"I think, in the next two days the threat to those giant sequoias will have diminished enough that we can begin to put efforts on other areas of the fire," Exline said.

The most threatened sequoias are within the Giant Sequoia National Monument, created about two years ago to extend protection to trees outside Sequoia National Park.

Most of the trees inside the park are about 40 miles away and remain unthreatened.

The woman arrested on suspicion of setting the fire is scheduled to be arraigned Friday morning in a Fresno federal court, a court clerk said.

Peri Van Brunt, a Kern County resident apprehended Wednesday, was set to appear at 11 a.m. (2 p.m. EDT) before Magistrate Dennis Beck.

Forest service officials said Thursday that Brunt probably started the fire accidentally.

One thousand people in southern California have been evacuated because of the fire. That figure includes 400 Boy Scouts who had to abandon their camp when the blaze broke out Sunday.




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