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California’s largest wildfire of 2022 grows uncontained to 1,800 acres near Bishop

Huge plumes of smoke seen in a valley out of the window of a helicopter
The Airport fire burns east of Bishop in the Owens Valley on Wednesday.
(California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection)

A wind-driven wildfire that broke out near Bishop in the Owens Valley spurred evacuations and grew to 1,800 acres by Wednesday night, officials said, quickly becoming California’s largest fire of the year so far.

The Airport fire was first sighted at 4:06 p.m. near Airport Road and East Line Street, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

No injuries have been reported, said Battalion Chief Alison Hesterly, a spokesperson for Cal Fire.

The fire was 0% contained Wednesday night, according to Cal Fire.

A map of the Owens Valley and Eastern Sierra showing the location of the Airport fire near Bishop

Driven by wind, the Airport fire was the largest of three wildfires to have broken out so far in 2022, according to Cal Fire statistics.

The Emerald fire, which ignited in Laguna Beach on Feb. 9, burned 154 acres amid unseasonable heat and Santa Ana winds. The Colorado fire started on Jan. 21 in Big Sur and burned 687 acres after high winds blew embers from a pile-burning operation onto nearby brush.

By this time last year, Cal Fire had recorded 10 wildfires, but none burned more than 700 acres.

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Authorities on Wednesday closed East Line Street, Airport Road, Poleta Road, Warm Springs Road and Collins Road, according to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office. UC White Mountain Research Center and Owens Valley Radio Observatory were asked to evacuate as a precaution.

Around 5:30 p.m., authorities ordered evacuations for areas of Big Pine east of Highway 395, according to Cal Fire. An evacuation center was set up at the Bishop Senior Center, at 682 Spruce St.

No further evacuations or road closures were ordered as of late Wednesday.

Windy conditions created visibility concerns for fire crews at times, Hesterly said. What caused the blaze remains under investigation.


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