Fire fills Mammoth with smoke

Officials predict blaze to grow to 6,000 acres

The smoke above Mammoth and the Eastern Sierra that began on Tuesday, July 23, is not going to dissipate for at least a few days, according to the local air pollution control district.

The smoke is due to a 2,000-3,000-acre fire (at press time on Wednesday night, July 24) on the west side of the Sierra crest, north and west of Huntington Lake, near a reservoir called Mammoth Pool Reservoir.

“There is an expectation that the blaze will grow to 6,000 acres over the next few days, so smoke production will be pretty steady,” said Jon Becknell, an air quality specialist with Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District.

“Predominant WSW winds will continue throughout today to bring the smoke over to the Mammoth Lakes and Owens Valley area, where it will tend to drift south,” he said. “The smoke at the burn location should settle down into the drainages on the west side of the Sierra crest. 

“Here, on the Eastside, we can expect the smoke that makes it over the crest to linger for the next couple of days because a weak high pressure will result in poor dispersion conditions and today’s pattern is predicted to repeat tomorrow.”

The fire is almost directly 40 miles west of Aspendell, a small community west of Bishop (located on S.R. 168, on the road to Sabrina Lake, South Lake and North Lake).

The weather for the next few days is expected to remain fairly calm and warm, with a possible return to the stormier weather of early this week by the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

The nearest town to the fire on the west side of the Sierra crest is Huntington Lake, according to a Sierra National Forest spokeswoman, Kelly Hooten.

The fire is called the Aspen Fire and was between 2,000 and 3,000 acres as of Wednesday, July 24, according to Sierra National Forest officials. It was zero percent contained at that time.

It was discovered on Tuesday.

Hooten said the fire poses no danger to Huntington Lake or the Big Creek area and is burning in mostly uninhabited country, although some campgrounds, including Sample Meadows and West Kaiser, have been evacuated and a forest road, Stump Springs, has been closed.

According to forest service officials, the area was hit hard by lightening strikes over the past few days, beginning on Sunday.

“Since Sunday afternoon, the Sierra National Forest/High Sierra Ranger District has received significant lightning activity,” a news release stated. “These downstrikes have resulted in 15 new wildfires, the largest of which is the 2,000-acre Aspen Fire located below Stump Springs Road just north of Aspen Creek.

“Extreme fire behavior has been observed on the Aspen Fire, with spotting of over 600 feet ahead of the main fire. At one point late Tuesday afternoon, all crews were pulled off the fire line for safety reasons.

For additional fire information, call High Sierra Ranger District at 559-855-5355, or Clovis at 559-297-0706.