Creek Fire grows but danger to Mammoth still low

Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter

The massive Creek Fire continued to send smothering smoke into Mammoth much of the past week, putting the town on the map once again with some of the most consistently bad air quality in the state, day after day.

The good news is the smoke should lessen into the weekend, due to a change in the wind direction (see below).

Another spot of good news is that even though this week saw two “spot fires,” (defined as embers that get moved ahead of the main fire by the wind and then start a fire on the ground) jump over the South Fork of the San Joaquin, neither of the fires are likely to spread enough to create serious danger to Mammoth, fire officials said.

According to Kathy Arnoldus, the Public Information Officer for the Creek Fire assigned to the Mammoth area, the two spot fires were identified earlier this week by a flight but, she said, they are small fires and fire managers do not see them being of any danger to Mammoth.

“One is one-tenth of an acre, the other is two to three acres,” she said. “They are not burning in a highly energetic manner and fire managers are planning on dropping water on them (Tuesday) if conditions allow.”

The issue with these spot fires, should they get larger, is that they are now nearer what is called a second Management Action Point, or MAP, located north of the river near Pincushion Peak. Before they jumped the river, there was no fire in this area and the MAP was set up as an action point, should a fire get closer to it.

That said, due to the later time of the year, colder nights and some rocky terrain, it is very unlikely the fires will grow enough to pose a danger to Mammoth, Arnoldus said.

They will likely continue to burn at a slow rate in the area until the rain or snow puts them out, she said.

“Had this occurred two weeks ago, it might have been a very different story,” she said.

The bad news is the smoke will not likely dissipate this coming week completely, as forecasters had hoped. That is because a wet storm that was once in the forecast and could have put out much of the fire, is now coming in much drier.

Mammoth is likely to see less smoke, perhaps a lot less, but due to the drier-than-expected forecast for the weekend, and due to another high pressure system forecast for next week, the fire will remain active, allowing it to send smoke into Mammoth when southwest winds blow, forecasters said.

“We are not out of the woods, smoke wise yet,” the National Weather Service said this week.