"SEQUOIA CREST, Calif. — Kristen Shive glanced around the blackened forest and started counting.
She stopped at 13 — the number of giant sequoias she spotted with charred trunks, scorched crowns and broken limbs.
The towering trees had grown on this Sierra Nevada ridge top for well over 500 years. They had lived through many wildfires and droughts. But they could not survive the Castle fire, which swept into the Alder Creek Grove in the early hours of Sept. 13.
One of the monster wildfires birthed by California’s August lightning blitz, the Castle fire burned through portions of roughly 20 giant sequoia groves on the western slopes of the Sierra, the only place on the planet they naturally grow.
Sequoia experts may never know how many of the world’s most massive trees died in the Castle fire, but judging by what they have seen so far, they say the number is certainly in the hundreds — and could easily top 1,000."