Residents evacuated from small Eastern Sierra town

BISHOP, Calif. -- More than 200 residents of Rock Creek Canyon in the Inyo National Forest were evacuated Monday when a wildland fire swept toward the Sierra Nevada canyon from Swall Meadows.

As of 9:30 p.m., the Birch Creek fire in California had burned 2,000 acres and 550 personnel were fighting the blaze, said Jan Cutts, information officer for the U.S. Forest Service in Bishop. Cutts said 200 structures were threatened.

Residents of upper Swall Meadows were ordered to evacuate. A voluntary evacuation order was in effect for Tom's Place. Rock Creek is a tiny rural community located along the Eastern Sierra between Mammoth Lakes and Bishop Calif., about 160 miles south of Carson City along Highway 395.

Cutts said officials did not know how the fire started. Highway 395 was closed Monday from the top of Sherwin Grade (at the brake check area) to Crowley Lake.

At least 10 air tankers and five helicopters joined ground crews from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and California Department of Forestry to fight the fire.

Volunteers from Mammoth Lakes, Bishop and the Long Valley fire departments were also battling the blaze which was burning in a southerly direction.

Approximately 200 firefighters stayed on the fire overnight, Cutts said,

The Cannon fire, which burned 22,750 acres of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, about 100 miles north of the Birch Creek fire, was reported to be 95 percent contained.

The fire, which began June 15 near Walker, Calif., cost $7.8 million to suppress and took the lives of three men when an air tanker crashed into a field, killing the crew.


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