Escaped campfire started French Fire; authorities search for culprit

The French Fire burning about 40 miles west of Bishop over the Sierra crest was caused by a escaped campfire that has now spread to a fire which has burned about 13,000 acres since it started July 27, authorities said.

An investigation has concluded that an abandoned campfire near the (Western Sierra, not local) Rock Creek Campground was the cause of the French Fire,” according to U.S. Forest Service authorities. “The abandoned campfire was located towards the bottom of Rock Creek Road (between Huntington and Shaver Lake, not the Eastern Sierra’s Rock Creek), near the San Joaquin River. Investigators are asking for the public’s help for information about anyone who was seen in the area of Rock Creek Road near the San Joaquin River during the afternoon or evening of Sunday July 27.”

In the meantime, the fire was about 30 percent contained on Aug. 4, meaning about 30 percent of the fire had a line of unburnable soil around it. Fire lines are very effective in stopping the fire’s spread—putting them in place and holding them is the challenge.

Like last year’s Aspen Fire, the biggest impacts to the Eastern Sierra has been the enormous amount of smoke from the fire, which has been blown over Mammoth Pass and other passes and into Eastern Sierra communities for most of the past week and a half.

The smoke has triggered several health advisories, posted by the local air pollution control district.
According to fire authorities, the fire will likely continue to create significant smoke, which will be most noticeable in the Eastern Sierra in the afternoons and evenings.

However, cloud cover and some rain has helped firefighters in recent days.

“Cloud cover helped suppression actions throughout the night, allowing crews and equipment to make good progress in line construction along the northwest perimeter,” the Sierra National Forest “Incident Command” team leading the effort to fight the French Fire, said on Monday, Aug. 4.

“Today crews will continue building and reinforcing containment lines on the north, west and south perimeters. The east perimeter has burned down to the San Joaquin River. Structure defense continues in the Arnold Meadow area on the northern perimeter.”