Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

The highway from Southern California to Mammoth Lakes was reopened Saturday, but an unusual winter brush fire near the resort doubled in size overnight, and sent Orange County firefighters north.

About 20 structures and outbuildings have burned near Swall Meadows and Tom’s Place, two hamlets along U.S. 395 between Mammoth Lakes and Bishop. The fire burned along the Lower Owens River Gorge, and went from 3,000 to 7,000 acres overnight, Calfire officials in San Bernardino said.

U.S. 395 was reopened restoring the busy highway between Southern California and the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.

Fifteen firefighters and five engines from the Orange County Fire Authority arrived at Bishop at sunrise. “We left around after midnight and have drove all night for an assignment today,” said Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi.

Concialdi said the fire engines can go off road and are able to drive and still pump out water.

“Most engines can’t do that,” he said. “We call it mobile pumping.”

The fire reportedly started west of Highway 395 at the Sherwin Grade at 2:07 p.m. Friday. One injury has been reported.

They joined 200 other firefighters, 43 fire trucks and two bulldozers on the fire lines.

Significant rain stopped the fire’s spread around 2 a.m. But downed power lines and venting propane tanks made re-entry for residents dangerous, according to CalFire.

An evacuation center was established at the Crowley Lake Community Center. Lower Gorge Road was closed.

—City News Service

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