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Final report on Center Fire now in Inyo D.A.’s hands

August 29, 2011

Residents in Inyo County continue to wait for the final report on the Center Fire that destroyed 19 homes in Big Pine. Officials say the report is in the hands of the District Attorney and will not be released until he decides how to proceed. Photo by Kiana Wyatt

CalFire has completed its final report on the Center Fire in Big Pine and is awaiting a decision by the District Attorney’s Office before it can be released to the public.
According to CalFire Public Information Officer Bill Peters, “we are not going to release the report until the District Attorney decides what he wants to do with it.”
The final report on the fire will contain the cost of damages and cause of the blaze, as well as details on fire units that responded to the blaze.
With the report in hand, the District Attorney Art Maillet must decide whether or not to press charges against or seek restitution from those who were responsible for the blaze.
Maillet does not speak to the media, and has a strict gag order imposed on his department, so no details of the status of the report – such as if and when it will be released – are known.
At this point, it is unclear how the blaze started, though there have been as-yet unsubstantiated reports that high winds may have kicked up embers from a camp fire or barbecue at the Bernasconi Center, where the blaze broke out.
A total of 19 homes were destroyed in the 800-acre fire. Preliminary estimates put the cost of damages from the fire at $4.5 million.
Due to high winds, the fire spread rapidly, driven north-east from Bernasconi into Big Pine, forcing local law enforcement officers from the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol to begin mandatory evacuations.
County Health and Human Services set up evacuation shelters in Bishop, Independence and Big Pine to house the displaced residents.
During the evacuation and throughout much of the night, U.S. 395 was closed to traffic from Bishop to Independence. Many residents who were evacuated were required to travel to Independence for shelter as the fire threatened to jump the highway.
At the fire’s peak, more than 250 firefighters from across the state, including volunteer firefighters from local communities from Lone Pine to Mammoth, responded to battle the blaze.
The fire spread quickly, moving from Bernasconi northeast, hitting first the westernmost areas of town including the Glacier View Mobile Home Park and the area near Rossi Road.
From there the fire spotted into the fields east of the Animal Shelter, between County and Baker Creek road, continuing east, jumping U.S. 395 north of State Route 168. There, firefighters were able to quell the bulk of the blaze, but crews remained on scene for the next couple days, mopping up and dousing hot spots.
More information on the report will be made public as it becomes available.

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