New Wildfire Burning Near Mt. Whitney Closes Whitney Portal Road

Staff Writer

A new Eastern Sierra wildfire, the Georges Fire burning west of Manzanar and near the Whitney Portal Road area west of Lone Pine, has grown to 2,000 acres and is zero percent contained, according to the Inyo National Forest, where the fire is burning.

The fire started Sunday, July 8, by lightning, and was fanned to its current size rapidly due to strong winds and low humidity. The same conditions are forecast today and are of concern today, according to firefighters. The fire is not threatening human life, or property at this time, but the Whitney Portal Road to the trailhead to Mt Whitney is closed and anyone with a permit to hike Whitney today, July 9, will not be able to do so at least today.

Today, the Inyo National Forest is contacting permit holders for the Whitney Portal Trailhead and the Shepherd Pass Trailhead to notify them that they cannot begin their hikes today from these trailheads, according to firefighters.

The Inyo National Forest is also working with campers who hold reservations at Whitney Portal. The forest will re-evaluate access to these areas on daily basis upon fire behavior.

Additional road closures include the Foothill Road and Moffat Ranch Road as well as any other roads that enter the fire area, according to firefighters.

There are no evacuations in place at this time.

However, campers and residents in the Whitney Portal area have been advised to be prepared for an evacuation.

The Inyo National Forest, CALFIRE, and Inyo County Sheriff are in Unified Command for this fire.

"Fire growth yesterday was to the north and west, driven by winds," according to Deb Schweizer, the forest's public information officer. "The fire is north of Lone Pine, west of Manzanar National Historic Site, and south of Bairs Creek. Last night, the winds died down, and crews were able to begin initial line construction for the fire.

The forecast today calls for additional lightning activity as well as continued erratic winds and dry conditions, she said. A Type II Team has been ordered and arrives this evening for a briefing.

Numerous crews from the Inyo National Forest, BLM, CALFIRE, and local fire departments are responding, she said. There are nine crews, 20 engines, three dozers, six helicopters, three air tankers and a very large air tanker (VLAT) assigned to the incident and additional resources are ordered and en route.