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News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 393

Lightning fire threatens Bodie State Historic Park

At approximately 3:00 PM on July 18, 2009 Eric Keefer, Law Enforcement Ranger for BLM-California’s Bishop Field Office was patrolling in the Bodie Hills area when he saw a lightning strike that ignited a wildfire adjacent to the State Park. After calling his dispatch center (the Owens Valley Interagency Communication Center) he got closer and realized the brush fire had quickly reached flame lengths of 10 to 15 feet, and was heading toward structures in the Bodie State Historic Park. (text continues below)

An airplane drops bright red fire retardant on hillside flames

Bodie was a thriving town in the early 1800’s and has been protected in a state of arrested decay.  The historical wooden structures could have been easily destroyed by fire. When Ranger Keefer arrived on scene the fire was about one acre in size and moving towards the structures. At the same time, several other lightning strikes had started 19 other fires in the region. Ranger Keefer and OVICC diverted an air tanker, water-dropping helicopter and other fire equipment to the “Bodie Fire.”  The air support made several drops to slow the fire from spreading before ground equipment arrived on scene.

The fire was stopped at about two acres in size. If not for Ranger Keefer being on site, his immediately reporting the situation, and an available tanker already being in the air and quickly diverted to the scene, the Bodie Historical State Park could have been damaged or destroyed.

The Bodie Historical State Park was a thriving gold mining town with over 10,000 people in its heyday.  Its mines produced more than $100 million in gold.  At its peak in 1880 it had 60 saloons.  Bodie’s mines demanded cordwood from the Sierra foothills and had its own railway to supply the demand. The town had twenty stamp mills and built its own hydroelectric plant to run them. It’s now one of the most popular ghost towns in the West, with over 200,000 visitors per year.

Flames amid shrubs and grass

- Debra Hein, interagency fire mitigation specialist with Inyo National Forest and BLM's Bishop Field Office, 7/09

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 393

Last updated: 07-29-2009