Dust and smoke issues in the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District

Archive for July, 2011

Downslope wind effect

Posted by admin on July 28, 2011

The photo of the Lion Fire smoke below, taken yesterday just after 7:00PM from Keeler looking west across Owens Lake towards the Sierra, aptly illustrates the evening valley downslope wind effect.  As the air cools aloft at the ridgeline, it starts a current of airflow down the slope to the valley floor.  In this case, it carried the smoke down with it into Lone Pine.  This phenomenon happened to some degree all the way north up the Eastern Sierra/Owens Valley interface.  Gratefully, it only pulled down a portion of the smoke plume.

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Lion Fire smoke over the top

Posted by admin on July 28, 2011

The Lion Fire ( grew to 16,350 acres yesterday, July 27, 2011, as the Sequoia National Forest continued to ignite new areas, burning back from terrain features such as rocky ridges and creekbeds in order to establish containment lines.  They have been employing this strategy for the last several days causing a dramatic increase in acreages burned per day and smoke emissions (see burn progression at Lion_7-27-2011.  We’ve all seen and experienced the smoke.  Although only listed as 15% contained, the fire is pretty successfully boxed in by these “burnout” operations.  Therefore, growth and smoke emissions should drop off dramatically in the next few days.

Below are two photos from yesterday at about 6:00 PM looking north from Haiwee Reservoir and from just south of Olancha.  Luckily, for many Inyo County communities, much of the smoke went up and east, over into Nevada.

A large portion of the smoke plume dispersed north however, as seen from this satellite image at 2:10PM, and settled into the upper Highway 395 corridor later in the afternoon and evening.

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Lion Fire smoke below standards

Posted by admin on July 27, 2011

Despite some high values yesterday, the particulate matter in the smoke from the Lion Wildfire did not exceed standards.  It looked bad, as seen below from our Keeler webcam, and triggered complaints.  But, winds did move the bulk of the plume fairly rapidly to the north/northeast so the 24-hour averages stayed below the standards of 50 micrograms per cubic meter for PM10 and 35 micrograms per cubic meter for PM2.5 (see chart below).

Average PM10 = 36, average PM2.5 = 19

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Lion Fire grows to 11,400 acres with burnout ignitions

Posted by admin on July 26, 2011

The Sequoia National Forest’s Lion Wildfire grew 2,900 acres yesterday due, in large part, to their ignition of the new burnout area depicted with the red outline in the lower left of the Google Earth image below by Sheep Mountain (click image for full resolution).  The smoke smoke has been transporting northeast across Lone Pine and Independence yesterday and today, as seen in the satellite images below.  It appears that tonight’s and tomorrow’s impacts will be even higher than what we’ve seen already.  Today, the incident command probably ignited more from an already established hand-line in Peck’s Canyon to the south.  This would account for some of the extra smoke.  The strategy is to employ the burnouts to prevent uncontrolled runs of the fire that would consume more fuels per the same acreage covered.   The photo below is an example from yesteday where entire trees were torched rather than just ground cover.  The intent is to do this while smoke dispersion conditions are favorable.  Unfortunately for the Owens Valley, that means when it’s blowing east.

Lion Fire Smoke 7/25/2011 & 7/26/2011


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Lion Fire burnout operations underway

Posted by admin on July 25, 2011

The Sequoia National Forest has started burnout operations by igniting via helicopter a new area to the northwest of the Lion Fire, depicted by the bright red spot on map below.  The pink area on the map is the collective scope of previous years’ burns.  The intent is to burn in advance from a natural feature that would eventually be a holding line for the fire’s inevitable growth.  In order to minimize impacts to populated airsheds, this pre-burning was started over the weekend when winds took most of the smoke due north.  During daylight hours, this strategy was relatively effective.  Although, overnight and during the early morning hours just before sunrise, smoke did settle down into valleys on both the west and east sides of the Sierra ridgeline.

(click on images for full resolution)

This Google Earth image of the Lion Fire’s progression shows the fire’s perimeters, as of this morning, in bright red.  The total area at this point was 8,500 acres.  The gap between the advancing fire and the burnout area over the weekend has filled in considerably.  This burnout technique essentially doubles the burned area (and smoke emissions) per day, with the trade-off that it cuts the number of days in half to the completion of the burn.

Olive and green lines represent the boundary between the Sequoia National Forest and Sequoia National Park.

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Lion Fire smoke rolling in

Posted by admin on July 19, 2011

As predicted the previous post, smoke from the Lion Fire is entering the valley this afternoon.  Despite knowing that the fire had grown 1,000 acres in a day, the degree of impact shown in the below two photos from the southern end of Owens Lake looking north just wasn’t envisioned.  The smoke will reach Bishop by about 6:00 PM.  Great Basin will be in contact with the Sequoia Forest to alert them to this situation, as it may very well cause exceedances of air quality standards for PM2.5.

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Lion Fire update

Posted by admin on July 19, 2011

Below is a map of the Lion Wildland Fire perimeter as of July 18 with a description of the operations from the Sequoia National Forest.  The fire started on the southern end near Lion Meadows (36.268, -118.5) and has been spreading to the north.  Today will probably be the largest growth at nearly 1,000 acres.  When the fire reaches areas to the north that have had prior burns, the progression will slow down considerably.  Smoke today should behave nearly the same today as yesterday afternoon with west winds over the fire carrying it across into the Owens Valley where it will be transported by south/southwest winds.  A mild high pressure system will linger over the weekend causing the haze to persist throughout the day more than it has been up to this point.

Click image to view full-size PDF

Sent: Monday, July 18, 2011 9:27 PM
Subject: FW: Lion Fire Update

This afternoon the Lion Fire was mapped at 2150 acres an increase of 600 acres for the last 24 hours. Moderate to high intensity growth to the east occurred today after mapping. The largest growth since the fire began was today, an increase of 1000 acres is expected for the next period. At this point the fire is close to the Tamarack Fire scar from 2006 on the north side. The east side of the fire is progressing towards Great Western Divide Ridge that is granite for the most part. The spot  fire in the 2001 White Fire scar has grown to a 1 1/2 acres it is located on the west side of the Little Kern River. The smoke from the fire has progressed down canyon along the Kern River drainage the last 2 days and I would expect that to continue for the next 2 days based on weather forecasts. The smoke column was visible in the Owens Valley and San Joaquin Valley today during the afternoon. We are continuing to check spread to the south along Lion Creek to the Little Kern River and up the River to the north. A new press release will be released tomorrow and an update of WFDSS will occur.

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Lion Wildland Fire smoke monitoring

Posted by admin on July 18, 2011

The Lion Wildland Fire, located 28 miles west of Olancha in the Sequoia National Forest, grew about 350 acres yesterday to a total of 1,554 acres as of this morning, July 18, 2011.  Forest burn personnel project another 200 acres today.  The same fire managers plan for the burn to be completed by about August 15.  Below is a photograph from taken yesterday evening from Hwy 395 looking south at smoke from the fire dispersing through the Bishop Pass (saddle on the far horizon) into the eastside airshed. 

The smoke stayed above the PM2.5 monitors in the Owens Valley, continued north and appeared to impact southern Mono County communities. Great Basin and California Air Resources Board personnel are very close to getting a PM2.5 monitor placed in the Paradise area to document this type of event.  Check back for details in the next few days.  The Sequoia National Forest has already deployed a PM2.5 monitor to the Independence Airport.  To view the data, visit and click on USFS1014.

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Lion Wildland Fire plus 2 prescribed burns

Posted by admin on July 12, 2011

Three fires depicted in the image below could have smoke emissions that will impact the Owens Valley in the near future.  Two are prescribed burns, Big Oak Flat Rx (Big Oak Flat Rx) in Yosemite National Park and Redwood Mountain Rx (Redwood Rx) in Sequioa & Kings Canyon National Park.  

The Lion Wildland Fire ( in Sequoia National Forest, 28 miles due west of Olancha, could continue for a period of weeks.  Forest personnel have consulted with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District regarding the placement of one of their PM2.5 EBAM monitors in the Owens Valley.  The probable location of this monitor, intended to measure the impact of the Lion Wildfire emissions, will be the Independence Airport.

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