The weekend after the Fourth of July, fire broke out about five miles south of Big Pine. A fierce wind blew the fire quickly toward the Big Pine area. Fast work by fire fighters from many agencies stopped the ferocious flames about a half mile outside the town. It was a nerve-wracking experience for residents. The cause of the fire has been under investigation by CAL FIRE. A spokesman now says that the cause was “power-line related.”
CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Preston Phelps said that the final cause of what was called the Fish Fire is still under investigation. He said CAL FIRE has been working with Southern California Edison on this incident. Phelps did say it is believed the more than 1100-acre fire was started by downed power lines. Why they were down apparently remains a question.
Phelps said CAL FIRE needs additional evidence. He did confirm that there were downed power lines at the origin of the fire which was just north of Fish Springs Fish Hatchery. The wind was blowing extremely high that day. Asked if this were the cause of the downed power lines, Chief Phelps said he could not say.
Phelps said he wants the investigation to cover every detail and “make sure everything IS right.” So, the question remains – was the start of the fire accidental or were other factors involved?
When the fire started, residents of Big Pine were under a voluntary evacuation order with a shelter set up at the Tri-County Fairgrounds. Highway 395 had been completely closed after the fire jumped the highway and burned in the center divider.
Volunteer fire departments from Big Pine, Bishop, Independence, Lone Pine and Olancha had responded along with CAL FIRE, the Inyo Sheriff’s Department, Inyo National Forest, BLM and Bishop Tribal Police.
Big Pine residents have pressed agencies for the cause of the fire that nearly burned right into their community.