Thick smoke blanketed the Owens Valley near Big Pine and Independence this week. This appears to be coming from the Sheep Fire burning in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park.
This lightning caused fire has been burning in steep cliff areas and trees since July 15th but sent some of the heaviest smoke of the season toward the Owens Valley on Tuesday afternoon. While the smoke plume obscured the sky and view of the mountains in Independence and Big Pine, no health advisory was issued. The smoke appeared to die down somewhat on Wednesday. Park Officials say hot and dry conditions Tuesday may have led to the increase in the smoke, along with an intentional burnout designed to protect infrastructure.
The Sheep Fire is burning in the southern cliffs above Cedar Grove, one-half mile north of Sentinel Ridge in Kings Canyon. Fire fighters are protecting park infrastructure such as a helicopter base and other areas in the Cedar Grove Valley. A fire line has been cut around some areas of the fire and some trails have been closed.
Last week the fire was listed at about 650 acres in size, now the fire has roughly doubled in size to over 1250 acres. Firefighters are actively fighting the fire and plan to stop the fire at Highway 180, but Park Officials say that one of the flanks of the fire borders wilderness and will likely be left to burn out on its own. With an active fire that may continue to burn for the time being, smoke may continue to drift into the Eastern Sierra from time to time depending on the winds.