Fire, smoke visible soon; prescribed burn plans get underway

More smoke will be in the air around Mammoth and the Eastern Sierra when several planned fire prevention prescribed burns get underway, perhaps as soon as this week—if the storm predicted for the end of this week materializes.

The storm is expected to drop enough snow to dampen the ground and keep the danger of the fire going out of control very low, which is why the U.S. Forest Service will not do the burns unless the storm appears.

Affected areas would be in the Mammoth, June Lake and Bald Mountain area, according to a news release from the Inyo National Forest.

The burns, which are designed to cut down on the amount of underbrush and light fuels surrounding communities in order to provide a buffer around the communities, are normally only done in late fall or spring.

Smoke likely would be present during these burns, and some may move into Mammoth and other inhabited areas, forest officials said.

Other results of fire prevention work have recently become highly visible along Sherwin Creek Road and along the gravel road that parallels Mammoth Creek on its north side, where parking for the Mammoth Creek park and trail is situated.

There, the sage and other brush has been cut down to about six inches tall along both sides of the road and almost all the way to U.S. 395; again in order to minimize the danger of fire near Mammoth during fire season, according to Mammoth Fire Chief Brent Harper. Other, similar vegetation reduction projects will be visible during the coming months and years.

Work could start as early as Jan 30 on the prescribed burns and crews will use favorable prescription opportunities to complete the burns, the forest service said in a news release.

"The Aqueduct Prescribed Fire is located 4 miles east of S.R. 395 near Bald Mountain, is 120 acres, and expected to last one or two days," the release states. "This project is being completed in the Jeffery Pine fuel type to reduce fuel and improve ecosystem resilience.

"The Crystal Crag piles project is 52 acres and is located in the Lakes Basin near Twin Lakes. Fire crews thinned and piled fuels in the mixed connifer forest to reduce the wildland fire hazard. This thinning removes ladder fuels that can cary fire from the forest floor to the canopy and helps firefighters have a safer response.

"Smoke from these projects will be visible from S.R. 395 from Mammoth to Lee Vining and Mammoth Mountain. Morning inversion patterns may hold smoke in June Lake and Crowley Lake. Residents who are smoke sensitive should avoid physical exertion when smoke is present.

"Two projects are also planned near June Lake. Approximately 50 acres of piles will be burned between the Fern Lake Trailhead and the Double Eagle Resort and Spa another 90 acres is planned on the northeast side of Reversed Peak near Grant Lake. The projects will last for several weeks and will begin as soon as more snow arrives to the project areas.

"Smoke may be visible from highways 158 and 395 as well as the community of June Lake and surrounding areas.

"The Inyo National Forest works closely with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District to select days that will provide good smoke dispersal."