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Lion Fire grows to 20,166 acres

August 11, 2011

The Lion Fire in Sequoia National Forest continues to grow and smoke impacts remain evident in Inyo County. Fire managers say the blaze has the potential to grow over the next few days, but fire lines and back burns should help contain it. Photo courtesy Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District

The Lion Wildland Fire in Sequoia National Forest that has been a source of smoke and headaches for many in Inyo County, is 75 percent contained.
The blaze, now at 20,166 acres, was sparked by lightning on July 8 and has been allowed to run its natural course, ridding the forest of dead and downed brush to create what officials say will be safer, more manageable fire conditions in the future.
Fire officials expect the fire to grow approximately 150 acres over the next several days, until it reaches the perimeter line to the south along Alpine Creek.
“There are approximately 250 acres that are still burning throughout the fire and producing smoke,” a press release from the U.S. Forest Service states. “The Lion Fire is 75 percent contained by rocky ridges, areas with little or no fuel, previous wildland fires, rivers, creeks, existing trails, or fire line cut through surface fuels.”
Fire officials have been in daily contact with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District to discuss and share information about smoke conditions from the fire.
To ensure residents’ concerns about the smoke are being heard, the U.S. Forest Service and representatives of Sequoia National Forest have held a series of public meetings, with one last week in Lone Pine, to discuss the fire, its impacts on local communities and why officials say it is a necessary evil.
There is no estimate for when the fire will be fully contained within this pre-determined perimeter, but fire officials and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District have said the worst is over, as far as smoke in the Owens Valley is concerned.
“Several spot fires have, once again, proven the ecological benefit and improved firefighter safety of managing wildfire in the Golden Trout Wilderness,” the press release states. “Spot fires ignited in areas previously burned went out on their own, with little effort from firefighters. Spot fires ignited in other places, where fire hasn’t burned for over 90 years, took great efforts from firefighters and helicopters to douse the flames before they spread.”
“A direct result of the Lion and other managed wildfires in the Golden Trout Wilderness is that future fires should be smaller, and much less destructive,” said Western Divide District Ranger Priscilla Summers.
Currently there are 112 firefighters cutting lines and monitoring the blaze.
Area closures remain in effect in Sequoia National Forest and Sequoia National Park. Residents can visit for maps of the closures.
Anyone planning to travel into the Forest’s Wilderness is asked to contact the Western Divide Ranger District at (559) 539-2607 for information about the closures.
For those planning wilderness travels in the southern area of Sequoia National Park, call (559) 565-3766.

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