Wildfire east of Bishop in Owens Valley grows to 2,800 acres

A wind-driven wildfire burning east of Bishop in the Owens Valley has grown to 2,800 acres, and an evacuation order for the remote community of Big Pine remains in place, officials said Thursday.

The Airport fire continued to burn south overnight and is expected to be fanned by steady winds of about 10-15 mph out of the northwest on Thursday, according to California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Emergency officials closed Highway 168 east of Highway 395, north of Big Pine as the fire continues to burn toward the community.

Dozens of structures are threatened, but there have been no reports of homes destroyed or damaged, officials said. There have also been no reports of injuries.

The fire remains 0% contained after flaring up Wednesday afternoon around 4 p.m. near the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport, according to CalFire. By 5:30 p.m., authorities ordered evacuations for areas of Big Pine east of Highway 395, according to Cal Fire. An evacuation center was set up at the Bishop Senior Center on Spruce Street.

Authorities on Wednesday closed East Line Street, Airport Road, Poleta Road, Warm Springs Road and Collins Road, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office. UC White Mountain Research Center and Owens Valley Radio Observatory were asked to evacuate as a precaution.

Approximately 150 structures are threatened by the fire and 432 personnel were battling the blaze as of Thursday morning. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Driven by wind, the Airport fire was the largest of three wildfires to have broken out so far in 2022, according to Cal Fire statistics.

The Emerald fire, which ignited in Laguna Beach on Feb. 9, burned 154 acres amid unseasonable heat and Santa Ana winds. The Colorado fire started on Jan. 21 in Big Sur and burned 687 acres after high winds blew embers from a pile-burning operation onto nearby brush.

By this time last year, Cal Fire had recorded 10 wildfires, but none burned more than 700 acres.

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