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Wind-driven fire burns 900 acres in rural Inyo County, threatening historic landmark

Wind-driven fire burns 900 acres in rural Inyo County, threatening historic landmark
A wind-driven wildfire burned 900 acres in Inyo County. (Inyo County Sheriff's Office)

A wind-driven wildfire exploded to about 900 acres in Inyo County on Sunday night, triggering evacuations and threatening a historic railroad station built in the 1880s, authorities said.

As many as 200 people, including residents of the Laws and Meadow Creek communities and campers at the Pleasant Valley Campground, were ordered to evacuate, said Capt. Liz Brown, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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Inyo County sheriff’s officials were going door-to-door urging residents, many of whom have large animals, to leave as powerful winds hampered firefighting efforts. An evacuation center was opened at the Bishop Tri-County Fairgrounds at 1234 Fair St.

About 90 firefighters were battling the blaze, with more on the way. Water drops were slated for early Monday morning, Brown said.

The fire broke out shortly after 2 p.m. near the Pleasant Valley Reservoir and Highway 395, exploding from 100 acres to 900 in a few hours. Highway 6, a major traffic artery to Nevada, was closed from Highway 395 to the Nevada state line.

As of about 9:30 p.m., the fire was uncontained, though no structures had been damaged or destroyed. It’s unclear how many were threatened.

“Once it’s wind-driven, it’s no different than any fire down here,” Brown said. “It can be very dangerous.”

Authorities are investigating what caused the blaze.

One of the areas threatened is home to the Laws Railroad Museum, a historical landmark that features narrow-gauge railroad memorabilia, along with buildings and artifacts from when rail service began in 1883.

Until 1915, this railroad offered the only reliable mode of transportation in and out of Owens Valley, according to the Office of Historic Preservation.

After the railroad stopped operating in 1960, many of the buildings and artifacts were set to be destroyed. They were later preserved by the Bishop Museum and Historical Society.

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