More than 300 local and state firefighters responded to a wind-driven blaze east of Lone Pine Sunday morning.
The River Fire, which remains under investigation, burned a narrow strip of about 250 acres near the Lower Owens River between Narrow Gauge Road to the north and State Route 136 to the east.
According to CalFire Information Officer Bill Peters, the blaze was about 40 percent contained Monday morning, with full control predicted for this evening.
“There is no real active fire on it right now,” Peters said Monday morning, “but it’s what we call a ‘dirty burn’ and there is still a lot of unburned vegetation in the area,” so crews will continue to monitor the site through the early part of the week.
The fire was reported at about 8:20 Sunday morning. Peters said firefighters from every agency in the Owens Valley, as well as crews from CalFire’s San Diego and Fresno offices, and crews with the Cleveland National Forest near San Diego responded.
Peters said fire crews battled the blaze during Sunday’s high winds, and were experiencing gusts of about 25 miles per hour for much of the day.
Lone Pine Fire Chief Le Roy Kritz said he watched flames burn through the brush and inch closer toward the Lone Pine Depot in the Anchor Ranch area Sunday morning.
“It’s burning against the wind,” Kritz said Sunday, noting that the fire was moving north and south.
Plumes of black smoke mixed with a thick cloud of white smoke, which wafted into the air as flames burned into the desert’s creosote bushes.
Around 2 p.m. Sunday, Kritz said there was no containment but added that there was no threat to the public.
At Depot Road, Kritz said if the fire moved any farther north, crews would have to move their line and begin a back fire.
As the fire burned through a ravine, Kritz said the blaze would burn off tules that grow thick in the nearby ponds.
“The fishermen are going to love it,” he said, adding that the tules make it difficult to fish the ponds.
“Local firefighters made a stand at (S.R.) 136 and prevented it from crossing the highway two miles east of (U.S.) 395 Sunday afternoon,” Peters said. During that time, the highway was closed. It was re-opened later that night, with only a caution sign warning of firefighters and fire equipment in the area.
By late Sunday afternoon, crews had the upper-hand on the fire, but two engine crews and two hand crews were assigned to keep tabs on the fire overnight to ensure that high winds did not kick up any hot spots.
Kritz said Lone Pine Fire was pulled off the fire at around 6:30 p.m.
Peters said the fire threatened some Los Angeles Department of Water and Power utility poles and livestock in the area, but fire crews were able to protect the utility poles, and livestock owners were able to herd the animals out of the danger zone.
Peters did say that two volunteer firefighters from one of the local departments did suffer minor injuries – smoke inhalation and eye damage due to blowing debris – and were treated and released Sunday.
Peters said the blaze is still under investigation and a cause had not been determined as of press time Monday.