Aspen Fire now 35 percent contained

-- Staff reportJuly 31, 2013 

The Aspen Fire, which was caused by lightning and was discovered Tuesday, July 23, is still burning on the Sierra National Forest-High Sierra Ranger District. The fire is burning below Stump Springs Road north of Aspen Springs near the Mammoth Pool Reservoir.

The fire has burned more than 14,000 acres and is 35% contained. Three structures are being threatened but none have been damaged. Two injuries have been reported.

Total fire personnel on hand is almost 1,800. A helicopter base has been set up in North Fork at the Old Mill Site, and seven large helicopters were located there as of July 30. Helicopter pilots are dipping the giant water buckets into Mammoth Pool and the San Joaquin River to retrieve water to dump on the fire. The buckets can carry about 750-900 gallons of water. Over a period of three days (July 27-29) a DC-10 (airplane) dropped 66,000 gallons of retardant.

According to the Sierra National Forest Incident Information System site, the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team assumed command of the Aspen Fire at 6 p.m. July 24. The team is working with the Sierra National Forest to manage suppression efforts.

The fire is in steep, rugged, inaccessible terrain. According to reports, progress has been made with indirect line on the northwest side of the fire, and indirect line has been completed on the northeast and southwest sides of the fire. Crews continue to use direct attack when possible and are making good progress. However, smoke is accumulating in low laying areas of the fire, which hampers firefighters’ visibility on the ground and in the air.

Recreation and businesses remain open in the Shaver Lake, Huntington Lake, Lake Thomas Edison, Florence Lake and the Mono Hot Springs areas. The closure of Stump Springs Road remains in effect. The Kaiser Wilderness has also been closed as well as 10 campgrounds in the area.

The cost in manpower and equipment to battle the fire has reached $10.6 million.

Details: inciweb.org/incident/3552/.

Air officials issue smoke health caution

Smoke emissions have prompted air officials to issue a health cautionary statement. The health caution is in place until the fire is extinguished. The air district will continue to monitor the impact these wildfires are having on air quality.

“If you can see or smell smoke in your area, you are most likely being affected,” said Samir Sheikh, the air district’s director over air quality analysis. “If possible, stay inside to avoid breathing in the smoke.”

Officials said smoke from fires produces fine-particulate matter, which can cause serious health problems including lung disease, asthma attacks and increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. Older adults and children should avoid prolonged exposure or heavy exertion, depending on their local conditions.

Residents can check their nearest air monitor at valleyair.org/Programs/RAAN/raan_landing.htm.

Details: Air Quality Regional office, (559) 230-6000.

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