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Fire threatens portion of Sequoia National Forest

NBC Los Angeles

The George fire in the Sequoia National Forest.

Updated at 5:16 p.m. ET: A wind-driven wildfire raged in the Sequoia National Forest on Monday, devouring at least 1,700 acres of the park in the southern Sierra Nevada.

More than 500 firefighters were battling the blaze, dubbed the George Fire, and more resources were expected to arrive throughout the day, said Michelle Puckett, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service.

Firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service evacuated hikers and campers along the Lloyd Meadow Road and at several trailheads.

“We don’t know the number of people evacuated, but we do know that all hikers and campers are out,” Puckett told msnbc.com.

The fire grew from about 1,000 acres on Sunday to 1,700 acres on Monday. The fire was 25 percent contained.

A firefighting aircraft crashed into rugged terrain near the Utah-Nevada border as it dropped retardant on a 5,000-acre wildfire, killing the two Idaho men on board. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

So far, the fire has consumed dead and downed trees in an area of the forest that hasn’t burned in 140 years, Puckett said.

View NBCLosAngeles.com's coverage of fire at Sequoia National Forest 

She said fire was still burning away from the forest's legendary sequoia groves. When fully grown, sequoias can grow 20 feet in diameter and reach lofty heights of more than 250 feet.

Puckett said the fire started Friday near a tree named for President George H.W. Bush, who signed a proclamation protecting all groves of giant Sequoias in the Sierra in 1992. The “George Tree” is located in the eastern edge of the Freeman Creek Giant Sequoia Grove, Puckett said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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