California: Aspen Fire

(UPDATE at 7:05 a.m. PDT, July 30, 2013)

Map of Aspen Fire at 1 a.m. PDT, July 30, 2013

Map of Aspen Fire at 1 a.m. PDT, July 30, 2013

On the map of the Aspen Fire above, the red line is the perimeter at 1 a.m. July 30; the pink line is from about 24 hours before. On Monday the fire continued to spread on the south and east flanks, and moved over a mile on the north side.

Businesses remain open in the Shaver Lake, Huntington Lake, Lake Thomas Edison, Florence Lake and the Mono Hot Springs areas.


(UPDATE at 8:10 p.m. PDT, July 29, 2013)

Some of our web site visitors have told us the maps of the Aspen Fire on InciWeb are not very useful to them. So until that changes, we will at least occasionally post a map here that we hope fits the needs of the general public.

In the maps below, the red line is the fire perimeter at 10 p.m. PDT July 28, 2013. The pink line is the perimeter about two days before that.

Map of Aspen Fire at 10 p.m. PDT, July 28, 2013

Map of Aspen Fire at 10 p.m. PDT, July 28, 2013 (click to enlarge)

3-D Map of Aspen Fire, looking northeast at 10 p.m. PDT, July 28, 2013

3-D Map of the Aspen Fire, looking northeast at 10 p.m. PDT, July 28, 2013 (click to enlarge)

The fire has burned 11,000 acres. Monday, east winds promoted increased growth along the northern, eastern and southeastern perimeter of the fire. Helicopters worked the southern edge of the fire in the Aspen Creek drainage and other areas of heat. Fixed wing aircraft, including a Very Large Air Tanker (a DC-10) are pre-treating with retardant the Kaiser Creek area.

We have a photo of the DC-10, which is reloading at Santa Maria Air Tanker Base.


(UPDATE at 7:45 a.m. PDT, July 28, 2013)

Aspen Fire, July 27, 2013

Aspen Fire, July 27, 2013 Photo by Fire Behavior Analyst John Smith (click to enlarge)

Over the past two days fire activity has been increasing in the late afternoon on the Aspen Fire when the smoke inversion layer lifts. It is expected to dissipate earlier on Sunday. On Saturday the smoke kept aircraft grounded until 3 p.m.

The incident management team reports that because of the extremely steep, rugged and inaccessible terrain, fire crews are using a tactic called indirect attack which creates control lines away from the fire’s active edge. Air resources, including several helicopters and air tankers, have been working along the edge of the fire after the inversion breaks to slow the forward progress. As the situation changes and firefighters can safely gain access to the fire, a more direct attack will be implemented.

Firefighters will continue to build a contingency fireline from Mushroom Rock to the San Joaquin River south of the fire, and will use the ridge north of Kaiser Creek as a northern contingency.

The numbers:

  • Acres burned: 8,927
  • Cost: $4.0 million
  • Hand Crews: 22
  • Helicopters: 8
  • Engines: 35
  • Total personnel: 1,012
  • Fire first reported: July 22, 2013

The incident management team is now producing maps for the public, so we will scale back our effort in that direction.

Morning briefing at Aspen Fire

Morning briefing at Aspen Fire. Photo by Michelle Puckett.


(UPDATE at 8 a.m. PDT, July 27, 2013)

Map of Aspen Fire at 8 p.m. PDT, July 26, 2013

Map of Aspen Fire. The red line is the fire perimeter at 8 p.m. PDT, July 26, 2013. The pink line is the perimeter about 19 hours before. (click to enlarge)

The Aspen fire continued to grow Friday on the north and east sides, and has now burned 6,693 acres. Firefighters are using boats to access portions of the fire near the Mammoth Pool Reservoir. Yesterday helicopters dropped water on the north end of the fire while fixed wing air tankers worked to the south. Smoke from the fire continues to impact the San Joaquin Valley and the local communities.

About 993 personnel are assigned to the fire, as well as 19 hand crews, 8 helicopters, and 35 engines.

The weather forecast for the fire area predicts 90 degrees, southwest winds at 3 to 11 mph, relative humidity around 40 percent, and a 20 percent chance of thundershowers — fairly moderate conditions unless gusty winds out of thunderstorms cause a problem.


(UPDATED at 5:50 a.m. PDT, July 26, 2013)

Map of Aspen Fire

Map of Aspen Fire. The red line is the perimeter at 1 a.m. PDT, July 26, 2013. The white line is the perimeter 26 hours earlier.

3-D Map of Aspen Fire

3-D Map of Aspen Fire looking northeast. The red line is the perimeter at 1 a.m. PDT, July 26, 2013. The white line is the perimeter 26 hours earlier. Minarets Road is in the foreground.

The fire burned actively throughout the day on Thursday growing to 4,500 acres and reached the slopes above the east side of Mammoth Pool Reservoir. On Friday firefighters will continue to construct firelines and aircraft will be utilized when possible. Heavy smoke and steep terrain makes access to the fire difficult and has inhibited the use of aircraft.

The wind on Friday should be a little stronger than on previous days, increasing to 8 to 10 mph out of the southwest in the afternoon. This may help the visibility problem for the aircraft, but could promote growth of the fire.

Aspen Fire


(UPDATED at 7:25 a.m. PDT, July 25, 2013)

Map of Aspen Fire at 11 p.m. PDT, July 24, 2013

Map of Aspen Fire at 11 p.m. PDT, July 24, 2013 (click to enlarge)

The Aspen fire northwest of Big Creek, California was active throughout the night and has burned between 2,500 and 3,000 acres. It moved to the north to come within half a mile of Mammoth Pool Reservoir.

The weather forecast for Thursday still calls for moderate conditions, with a two to six mph wind out of the north, becoming west and southwest in the afternoon. The relative humidity should be in the mid-twenties.

3-D Map of Aspen Fire at 11 p.m. PDT, July 24, 2013

3-D Map of Aspen Fire at 11 p.m. PDT, July 24, 2013


(Originally published at 6:42 p.m. PDT, July 24, 2013)

Map Aspen Fire

Map of heat detected on the Aspen Fire by a satellite at 1:20 p.m. PDT, July 24, 2013 (click to enlarge)

A new fire on the Sierra National Forest in California could turn out to have some potential. Started by lightning, the 2,500-acre Aspen Fire is in an area that last burned in 1938. The Forest got hammered by lightning over the last few days and this is one of 15 fires, but all of the others are less than a quarter of an acre. Estimating from the heat detected by a satellite, (shown in the two maps) it is approximately three miles long by one mile wide, just south of Mammoth Pool Reservoir, 16 miles south of Yosemite National Park, and 5 miles northwest of Huntington Lake.

3-D Map Aspen Fire

3-D Map of heat detected on the Aspen Fire by a satellite at 1:20 p.m. PDT, July 24, 2013 (click to enlarge)

Evacuations are occurring at Sample Meadow and West Kaiser Campgrounds.

The South Central Sierra Incident Management Team, with Incident Commander David Cooper, will be assuming command of the fire at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

It is burning in very steep country, with the elevation varying from 2,600 feet in the drainage to almost 7,000 near the head of the fire.

The weather forecast for the fire area on Thursday calls for moderate conditions — 92 degrees, west to southwest winds of 2 to 9 mph, 25 percent cloud cover, and a relative humidity around 30 percent. However the extremely dry drought-affected vegetation could bump up the fire behavior to levels higher than warranted strictly by the weather conditions. You can monitor the real time weather at the Minarets weather station 6 miles north of the fire.

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About Bill Gabbert

Wildland fire has been a major part of Bill Gabbert’s life for several decades. After growing up in the south, he migrated to southern California where he lived for 20 years, working as a wildland firefighter. Later he took his affinity for firefighting to Indiana and eventually the Black Hills of South Dakota where he was the Fire Management Officer for a group of seven national parks. Today he is the creator and owner of and Sagacity Wildfire Services and serves as an expert witness in wildland fire. If you are interested in wildland fire, welcome… grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Google+

15 thoughts on “California: Aspen Fire

  1. I agree: yours is the best report available. I’ve been looking for news on the Aspen Fire for a couple of days now and you have the only updated information. The outlines of the burn area give a clear sense of the extent of the fire and the 3D map illustrates the topography the firefighters must face. I would like to see information about the spread of the resultant smoke plume, too.

    Thank you for your work.

  2. Great job! Map is spot on. I’ll be spending good time up that way mid-August to end of October. Your work will leave no surprises to terrain. Thank you for the time spent.

  3. Thanks for the info and updates! Yours is by far the best coverage on this incident…

    –a concerned local

  4. Thank you for your updates. My friend has a cabin at Bass Lake and tells me the smoke is settling over the lake.

  5. The smoke from the Aspen Fire is not limiting itself to Western Sierra. We on the Eastside are being negatively impacted by the smoke from this fire, too. I have asthma and this smoke has been debilitating. I am in Mammoth and attempted to escape the smoke by going to Bridgeport yesterday with little success. Today I will head south instead with the same hope as yesterday. Thank you for your work.

  6. Mammoth village awoke this morning with restricted visibility as a result of the smoke from this fire. Stinging of the eyes reminiscent of the bad old smoggy days when I was growing up in SoCal back in the ’70’s.

  7. Thank you for great coverage!

    Many cross country teams in Mammoth this week for XC high altitude training! Will the air clear in next days ??!!!

  8. Thank you for the well written and researched report. Please keep up the great work.

  9. we have our annual family campout coming up and wanted to know if the mammoth campgrounds are going to be open for reservations this month can someone let me know if I can still plan to camp this year

    • Was up that way this last weekend. Other than areas of Mammoth Pool Reservoir, all areas were open. If your talking about Mammoth mtn area, thats about 15-20 miles as the crow flies. Your best bet would be to call the ranger station of the area you plan to visit. Hopefully this fire is put in check come Kaiser creek. Smoke in the morning is dense even west of fire till afternoon wind picks it up n sends it to Nevada. Everyone might have a better idea when Kaiser creek stand is made by firefighters.

  10. Thanks for the thorough report. I’ve bookmarked you as a great resource.



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