Thunderstorms Ignite Two New Wildfires

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Date: July 23, 2006
Contact: Joe Zarki, 760-367-5527

Whispering Pines Fire

Connor Sauer

Lightning from scattered thunderstorms created two new wildfires in Joshua Tree National Park Saturday evening. At approximately 7 p.m., lightning strikes started a blaze just north of the park boundary in the Whispering Pines area. The fire burned actively throughout the night and by 7 a.m. had moved inside the park and reached approximately 700 acres in size. The fire is burning south and southwest into the park and away from border communities.

No homes or structures are currently threatened outside the park, but a small area of cabins and outbuildings located on private property within the national park was involved in the fire Saturday night. At least one structure, owned by the National Park Service and slated for removal, was destroyed by the fire. At present, there is no containment of the Whispering Pines Fire.

Incident command for the Whispering Pines Fire will be assigned to a Type II team on Sunday. Assets deployed in support of the fire include 11 hand crews, five engines, two dozers, one water tender, four fixed-winged air tankers, four helicopters, and one air attack command aircraft. Over 200 personnel are assigned to the Whispering Pines Fire today. The Type II Team will also assume command of the mop-up operations on the nearby Covington Fire. The Covington Fire was declared fully contained on Saturday morning.

Objectives for the firefighters today include protection of homes and structures including a radio tower on the northwest flank of the fire. Firefighters will try to establish secure lines around the fire and contain active fire areas within park boundaries. Firefighter safety is a principal objective. Suppression activities are complicated by steep terrain, lack of road access to the area, high heat and humidity, and erratic winds.

One injury associated with the Whispering Pines Fire occurred about 2 a.m. Sunday morning. A contract driver was involved in a vehicle accident while his water tender was being towed for repairs. The accident occurred on La Contenta Road in Yucca Valley. The driver was treated on the scene for head, neck, and back injuries and was airlifted by Mercy Air to Desert Regional Hospital in Palm Springs. The accident is under investigation by the San Bernardino County Sheriffs Office.

A second park fire was started by lightning on Saturday evening in the Lost Horse Valley region of the park. This small brush fire was quickly extinguished by park personnel. National Park Service staff will continue to monitor the Lost Horse Fire in the coming days.

Area residents should remain alert and prepared in the event of sudden changes in local wildfire activity. Residents should listen to local radio and television stations for updates on wildfires in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Homeowners near active fire areas can find information on how to create a defensible space around their homes by looking at the California Department of Forestry website at http://www.fire.ca.gov/php/.

La Contenta Road remains closed to the public. The Black Rock Horse Camp has been closed temporarily due to helicopter operations in the area. All other areas of the park are open for normal summer visitor use.



Last updated: February 28, 2015

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