smoky owens valley image

A thick layer of smoke from the KNP Fire complex covers Bishop and the Owens Valley. The fire is burning on the other side of the Sierra crest, to the southwest, and does not pose a direct danger to the Eastern Sierra; however, smoke could become a much bigger issue if the fire continues to grow, due to prevailing southwest winds.

After an entire summer of enviably clear skies compared to the rest of the state, a new fire burning to the southwest of the Eastern Sierra could change that.

The new fire, or a group of fires, called the KNP Complex because it is burning in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, grew to 3,024 acres as of today, Sept. 14 and is still zero percent contained.

The location of the fire is what makes it potentially troublesome in terms of smoke for the Eastern Sierra if it continues to grow - there is no fire danger to the Eastern Sierra from this fire, only smoke impacts.

The reason the KNP Fire could be a smoke producer for the Eastside is because it is centered in a location east of Fresno in the park. This puts it southwest of Mammoth and much of the Eastside. The Eastern Sierra is prone to southwest winds, which means fires to the southwest tend to be the most impactful to the Eastern Sierra, smokewise.

(It is important to note there have been no significant fires this summer to the southwest, partly because the huge fire scar left over from the Creek Fire, which stretches almost 40 miles long and is dozens of miles wide, is southwest of the Eastside. That huge swath of burned area just over the Sierra Crest has acted like a kind of giant firebreak and kept large fires from burning in that area - there is simply very little fuel left in that scar to burn).

Here is the latest update on the new KNP Fire from the park:

"The KNP Complex, ignited by lightning on the night of September 9, continues to grow in Sequoia National Park. The complex is comprised of the Paradise Fire and the Colony Fire. Last night, the Paradise Fire made a downhill run, and crossed the middle fork of the Kaweah River and the Generals Highway. As a result of this, the parks are evacuating employees from the Ash Mountain Headquarters Complex and nearby housing areas. 

"The Paradise Fire has a new acreage of 2,531 acres, and the Colony Fire has a new acreage of 493 acres, for a combined total for the KNP Complex of 3,024, with 0% containment. 

"In the coming days, the current and incoming incident management teams will operate out of the Three Rivers Memorial Building. Per Tulare County Sheriff, part of the community of Three Rivers remains under evacuation warning. This area includes all points along both sides of Highway 198 between the intersection with North Fork Drive and the entrance to Sequoia National Park. North Fork and South Fork Drives are not included in the evacuation warning. The evacuation warning is not an order. It means that residents should prepare for the possibility of evacuation, so that they will be ready to mobilize and leave should the evacuation warning escalate to an evacuation order. Mineral King remains under evacuation order.  

"Another community meeting will take place Sept. 14, at 5 p.m. at the Three Rivers Memorial Building, located at 43490 Sierra Dr, Three Rivers, CA. As before, the meeting will be live streamed on the parks’ Facebook page, www.facebook.com/SequoiaKingsNPS, and will be available afterwards for viewing there and on Inciweb in the “videos” section. 

"The KNP Complex has been a full suppression incident since the discovery of the smokes the morning following the lightning storm. In the case of the Paradise Fire, extremely steep topography and a total lack of access has prevented any ground crew operations, and in the case of the Colony Fire, only a limited amount of ground crew access has been possible. Both fires have utilized extensive aerial resources performing water and retardant drops, but even this was hindered yesterday by bad visibility in extremely smoky conditions, the park said. 

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