By Katie Vane
According to a press release from the Inyo National Forest “Highway 120 East, Test Station Road, and the day use areas at South Tufa and Navy Beach have all been re-opened to the public. Emergency vehicles and fire suppression equipment and crews are still in the vicinity of Hwy 120, so people traveling that route are urged to use caution. Please be sure to park well off the pavement if you are stopping to look at the burned area.
“The Incident Management Team advises that if the fire should become active in this area again that the roads and day use areas could be temporarily closed, or a pilot car could be used to lead vehicles traveling Hwy 120.
“The Mono Fire is now 70 percent contained with 1200 acres burned. Crews on Thursday will focus on fire line construction and improvement, and mopping up the fire. Two airtankers, one helitanker and one helicopter remain committed to the fire in case they are needed for aerial support.”
Fire season has ignited this week with three fires burning in Kern County and Mono County areas.
In Kern County, two simultaneous fires in Tehachapi and Kernville have destroyed 36 homes, necessitating the evacuation of over 2,300 people. These fires continue to rage across a combined 19,586 acres as of July 28. The scale of the destruction has prompted Governor Schwarzenegger to proclaim a state of emergency in Kern County.
The Tehachapi, or “West Fire,” has burned since July 27 at 3 p.m. The blaze began as a vegetation fire southeast of Tehachapi (approximately 230 miles south of Mammoth Lakes). Now 25 percent contained, the fire has already claimed 1,400 acres and 30 homes, and threatens an additional 150 homes. Eight hundred personnel, including Kern County Fire Department (KCFD), LA County Fire Department (LACFD), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service, and Cal Fire, continue to battle the flames.
The Kernville, or “Bull” fire, began July 26 at 1:45p.m. Only 5 percent contained, the fire has spread to 15,586 acres. Seven hundred personnel, including KCFD, the US Forest Service, and BLM, are fighting the fire, which is burning about 217 miles south of Mammoth. At this time, according to InciWeb, the Bull Fire is “burning actively on both sides of the Kern River” above Kernville. The California Highway Patrol has closed Mountain Highway 99 from Kernville to Fairview, and evacuations are underway at Burma Road in Kernville, just south of the point of origin of the fire, and also at the community of Riverkern. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Closer to home is the Mono fire, which began July 25 at approximately 2 p.m. The fire is burning now between US 395 and the north end of the Mono Craters, south of Hwy 120. A crew of 282, composed of the Forest Service, Cal Fire, BLM, and volunteer departments in Lee Vining, June Lake, Mammoth, and Bishop, are working together to make headway against a fire already 20 percent contained. Nancy Upham with Inyo National Forest expected that percentage of containment to go up by yesterday afternoon, as long as the winds remained calm. “So far,” she says, “it’s looking good.” The cause of the fire, like the Bull Fire, is also under investigation.
In spite of these three fires burning within a 230-mile radius of Mammoth, currently the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (GBUAPCD) advises that “no air quality standards are being exceeded.” According to the hourly particulate matter chart on the GBUAPCD website, Mammoth air has not even exceeded a PM-10 value of 25. It would take a PM-10 value of over 50, said Air Pollution Control Officer Ted Schade, to “raise any concern.” But, Schade added, “If the wind shifts, we could get pretty significant impacts.” He advised that Mono County residents look to the mountains for signs of dangerous levels of air pollution: “once you just see the bare outline of the mountain, then you’re probably over the standard.”
From the looks of it, Mammoth residents should be able to breathe easy for now.
Check out the following fire map to see where the fires are located.