Mono County - Walker/Coleville Area - Wildland Fire - "Mountainview Incident"

es93546

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A vegetation fire, apparently ignited by a downed powerline, started just before noon, behind the Mountain View BBQ (restaurant). It is burning north on the east side of the Walker River. There are very high winds today, with U.S. 395 closed to high profile vehicles from Bishop north to the Nevada state line at Topaz Lake. Mono SO has 6-8 or more deputies on scene doing evacuations from the point of origin north along eastside lane. The fire overwhelmed the Antelope Valley Fire District and initially the identity of the IC was unknown. A request for federal (USFS/BLM) assistance was made within 20 minutes of the start. It looks like the IC is BLM Battalion 3117 of the Bishop Area Office-Central California District, who is quartered in Lee Vining.

Reports of structures involved and threatened. Resources from the NV Div of Forestry, the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF, both Bridgeport and Carson Ranger Districts (Type III and Type VI engines, with some overhead personnel), all Mono County Departments that can send Type I engines and the Inyo NF is sending several Type III engines and overhead personnel.

More confusion, 8 Adam 2, the Mono SO Undersheriff, just arrived on scene and stated he is the IC for the Meadowview Incident. My assumption is this will be a unified command. I would bet that Battalion 3117 will be the ops chief. This is speculation at this point.

IC requests U.S. 395 be closed at 1329.

Frequencies:

170.5250 Command. This is the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Bridgeport Ranger District Net. They are using the Sweetwater Repeater for this incident.
154.8000 Law Enforcement Mono County SO. Using the Sweetwater Repeater - Tone 13 - 141.3. Lots of evacuation traffic on it.
153.8600 Mono County Fire Net - Sweetwater Repeater - Tone 13 -141.3
154.2650 Tactical - VFire 22.

The repeaters can be heard as far south as Mammoth Lakes and Sweetwater can be heard north to the north end of Carson City. I worked the 2m repeater from a place in Reno once, so Reno residents with good antennas should have a chance of hearing this one.

Minden Dispatch link:

Sierra Front Dispatch

Inyo Dispatch link:

Owens Valley Interagency Dispatch Center

2020 is proving to be a very active fire season, to say the least.
 
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es93546

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Update, the IC situation is good. There is now order established on the incident. I'm not hearing much on the county fire net (153.8600) or the HTF Bridgeport Net (170.5250). Evacuations are now moving west, north of 395 (395 is nearly east west in the town of Walker). Most traffic must be on tactical frequencies. There are plenty of NIFC, NIFOG and BLM California tacticals available.

I've heard no estimate of acreage.
 

es93546

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Mono County has an excellent county sheriff and the Undersheriff, who is the IC, is excellent. The sheriff is a former LAPD officer who had experience as a commander or captain in several special units of the department, as well as in a few divisions as an officer, sergeant and above. She handpicked the Undersheriff, who has been in the department since the sheriff was elected. The sheriff is in her second term and ran unopposed for the second term. She had worked as a deputy for a little less than one year under the former sheriff and was let go on nearly the last day of her probation, without any stated cause. She ran against him in the election for her first term. She oozes professionalism and competence when you meet her.
 

es93546

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Sierra Front just announced that the HTF Leviathan repeater is to be command on this fire. This is the so called, "Markleeville Lightning Net." Frequency is 172.2750. I can't hear this repeater from Mammoth, but people in Nevada north to Carson City should have no problem. A nephew of mine lives on the west shore of Lake Tahoe and works a 2m repeater on Leviathan, so some in the Lake Tahoe basin should be able to hear it.

Sierra Front now shows either Batt 21 or Division 2 of the HTF as IC. This is likely a unified command though. There are several fires in the Reno to Minden area that the Carson City BLM District and NDF are making initial attack on.
 

es93546

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The area is served by Liberty Utilities, a very large company. The initial radio traffic when the fire was quite small included that this utility company had units on scene. SCE power is off in Bridgeport, north to the USMC training center on SR 108.
 

es93546

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Evacuations are now being made over a wider area. It sounds like the whole town of Walker and north for some distance. I don't have exact official info on this. Fire apparently jumped 395. Within 2 minutes of a deputy reporting the fire, he stated that the USFS had two engines on it.
 

es93546

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Report from a ham radio operator is that the fire does not appear to be heading north toward Nevada, but up into some pinyon-juniper stands in the Sweetwater Mountains. Sorry, this is a third hand report, it involves a ham who is a firefighter on the fire, talking with another ham, who is posting what he hears on a Facebook page.

I think the USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center Fire Department just sent an engine to this fire. Lots of involvement. I also heard that several structures have been destroyed. The worst fires Mono County has experienced as far as structure damage have occurred in November, January and February during very high winds.
 

es93546

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During all the initial attack usual confusion, there was an overturned big rig blocking 3 of 4 lanes of U.S. 395 just south of SR 167. Trucks have been coming around the Meadowview Fire via the "Sweetwater Detour" that ends up connecting U.S. 395 with CA SR 182 via NV SR 208. Also, trucks coming in to California via Hawthorne, NV via a NV state road to CA SR 167 and then onto U.S. 395. They are then ignoring or are ignorant of the wind closure for big rigs between Bishop and NV state line on U.S. 395. As soon as you plug one hole, somebody finds another.

During the evacuation apparently an obvious 11-44 found in one of the houses by a neighbor, cause unknown. I don't think it has anything to do with the fire.
 

B

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Fantastic reports, thank you so much. I have family in the area and truly appreciate your time, effort and work on the initial report and updates.
 

es93546

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There were 3 big rigs that overturned near the U.S. 395-State Route 167 junction today. Two were traveling, but one trucker had pulled over on the shoulder, was stopped waiting it out in the tractor cab and the tractor and trailer were overturned by the wind. We watched the breaking news on the Reno TV channels we get here. Many fires are burning in the Reno area with homes destroyed, at least 12 from one estimate. We didn't get any downed trees in Mammoth today, but had some a few days ago when we had another windstorm.
 

es93546

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The Pinehaven Fire in the southwest area of Reno is at 1200 acres and is grabbing the Reno media. It's been nearly 9 years to the day since the Caughlin Fire, which was one of the worst fires in Reno history. The Pinehaven Fire started very close to where the Caughlin Fire started.

Inyo NF has quite a few resources on the Meadowview Fire. The remaining resources on this forest are still available in quarters. I'm not sure if they will be working a 24 hour shift or will knock off soon so they can work tomorrow. They had a small fire tonight on the road between Tom's Place on U.S. 395 and the Crowley Lake dam and called the "Sunnyslopes Fire." Lots of nervous people in Mono County when it was first paged out.
 

es93546

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The Meadowview Fire acreage is now somewhere 20,000 acres plus. The winds brought in a little storm that was quite helpful. It rained and snowed for a time on this fire. I don't like storms that bring in such destruction before giving us the precip we need. The Antelope Valley of northern Mono County has had too many disasters in the 39 years I've lived in the county. Multiple fires that threaten the towns and a bad flood back in 1997 that destroyed a lot of structures and closed U.S. 395 for six months. Covid-19 is restricting our travel, given our ages (me 70 and my wife 65). If that was not a consideration we would drive up there, stay in a motel for a couple of days, eat in the restaurants and buy things in the general store. We went up for a day in July of 1997 and spent some money about town. Maybe we can go up for a day again. There are a lot of wonderful people that live up there and we would like to support them.

I'm also glad that the Creek Fire, to our west on the Sierra National Forest, won't be putting up much smoke now. We've had a lot of smoke for about 6 weeks or more this year. The fire won't likely be called out until next summer. Large fires in heavy fuels can smolder through the winter and pop up the next spring so some dry and warm time is needed to see if the fire is actually out. A lot of people don't understand this and the significance of calling a fire out.
 

ladn

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I have a friend in Smith Valley (NV). I can't check FB from work, but her posts yesterday showed flames unnervingly close.
I would hope that with many of the other large incidents winding down, there will be sufficient mutual aid available to get the job done.
Any word on air assets--or is the wind keeping them on the ground?
 

es93546

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I have a friend in Smith Valley (NV). I can't check FB from work, but her posts yesterday showed flames unnervingly close.
I would hope that with many of the other large incidents winding down, there will be sufficient mutual aid available to get the job done.
Any word on air assets--or is the wind keeping them on the ground?
The fire is finally listed on InciWeb. Acreage shown is 28,879. I haven't seen a map yet, which will be of great interest to me. I worked on the Bridgeport Ranger District for 7 years in the 1980's. There are some people living there who I haven't kept in touch with, but are very much in my thoughts due to this fire. My wife and I have a friend who lives there, but on the south side of U.S. 395. She saw the fire when it started and it burned away from her, although she was evacuated. I'm thinking any spread of the fire is over, but I don't know that for sure. Yesterday the winds were far too high for any aviation resources. Depending on where the fire burned, most of it on the valley bottom is accessible by vehicle. If there isn't any spread or hot spots aircraft aren't needed. That, and most aviation resources are not on contract right now. It is good that federal engines are staffed for most of the year now, otherwise the response would have been far less.
 

es93546

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Mutual aid, immediate need Code 3, was the order of the day, yesterday. Engines and water tenders responded from Bishop to Reno. Mono County fire departments rolled an engine per department. The USMC Mountain Warfare Training Center responded with a Type I or III. The sheriff's department did an outstanding job. Mutual aid works very well in California and in rural areas is highly supported. A lot of resources from Nevada were there and that call goes both ways, we have fire departments that respond to Nevada and law enforcement does on occasion. Mono and Inyo Counties, along with the CHP often catch people trying to escape from Nevada and Nevada counties catch some of ours as well.
 

es93546

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The death is fire related. A person with a pre existing heart condition that required a pacemaker installation was out rounding up pets in order to evacuate. A neighbor went to check on the person before the search for the pets started. When he didn't see anyone ready to evacuate he went over and found the person dead. Person was elderly and I don't recall, but I think it was a woman.
 
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