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Power lines, sage grouse at risk during Indian Fire

August 17, 2012

Smoke from the Indian Fire pollutes the sky earlier this week. Photo/Supplied

The lightning-caused fire near Mono Lake was declared 100 percent contained Wednesday, and firefighters are increasingly being moved from the Indian Fire to other fires in the state and country.

At its peak, 571 people were assigned to the fire. Two main reasons drove the relatively high staffing of the fire, given there were no structures threatened and no human lives at stake.
 
One was the presence of one of the big power transmission lines in the area, according to fire officials, who updated the Mono County Board of Supervisors on the fire at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday. 
 
The big transmission lines run through the Adobe Valley and near the Granite Peaks Wilderness area, and fire officials said the threat of losing the lines during one of the hottest weeks of the year put the fire near the top of the state’s fire fighting priority list.
 
Another factor was the fact that the fire was in an area frequented by sage grouse and the region’s native sage grouse is a candidate for the Endangered Species Act list, a fate most local and regional land managers wish to avoid.
 
The thunderstorm and lightning that sparked the 12,574-acre fire passed through the Eastern Sierra Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 8, and ignited the fire about five miles southeast of Mono Lake and north of Highway 120 on Bureau of Land Management public lands.
 
The Indian Fire grew rapidly Wednesday through Saturday until cooler weather and rain slowed the spread of the fire Saturday. 
 
Full containment was achieved Aug. 15. 
 
An interagency management team from Southern California turned over the management of the Indian Fire to local agencies Aug. 16.

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