Winds fan wildfire in eastern California’s Owens Valley

February 17, 2022 GMT
This photo provided by CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Public Information Office shows a wildfire near in Owens Valley, Calif. on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. A wildfire continued to burn actively in eastern California's remote Owens Valley but firefighters had so far kept it from harming small communities, authorities said. (CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Public Information Office via AP)
This photo provided by CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Public Information Office shows a wildfire near in Owens Valley, Calif. on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. A wildfire continued to burn actively in eastern California's remote Owens Valley but firefighters had so far kept it from harming small communities, authorities said. (CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Public Information Office via AP)
This photo provided by CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Public Information Office shows a wildfire near in Owens Valley, Calif. on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. A wildfire continued to burn actively in eastern California's remote Owens Valley but firefighters had so far kept it from harming small communities, authorities said. (CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Public Information Office via AP)
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This photo provided by CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Public Information Office shows a wildfire near in Owens Valley, Calif. on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. A wildfire continued to burn actively in eastern California's remote Owens Valley but firefighters had so far kept it from harming small communities, authorities said. (CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Public Information Office via AP)
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This photo provided by CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Public Information Office shows a wildfire near in Owens Valley, Calif. on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022. A wildfire continued to burn actively in eastern California's remote Owens Valley but firefighters had so far kept it from harming small communities, authorities said. (CAL FIRE San Bernardino Unit Public Information Office via AP)

A wind-driven wildfire eluded containment Thursday in eastern California’s remote Owens Valley but firefighters had so far kept it from harming small communities, authorities said.

Dubbed the Airport Fire, the blaze was estimated to have scorched more than 6 square miles (15.5 square kilometers) and was a threat to 150 structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire erupted Wednesday near Eastern Sierra Regional Airport outside the town of Bishop and winds drove it south toward the town of Big Pine, where evacuations were ordered for the east side of the community.

“Firefighters are actively engaged in perimeter control and structure defense,” a Cal Fire statement said. “Winds have remained steady and will continue at 10-15 mph (16-24 kph) out of the northwest.”

The White Mountain Research Center and the Owens Valley Radio Observatory were included in the evacuation.

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The University of California’s White Mountain Research Center supports a wide range of scientific research and is known as for earth science education.

“We were lucky to not sustain any damage to our facility. Though the fire was close, about 200 yards from our fence,” the center’s spokesperson Gaylene Kinzy said in an email to The Associated Press.

The Owens Valley Radio Observatory is owned by the California Institute of Technology and has large dish antennas used for radio astronomy and astrophysics research.

Caltech said in a statement that personnel on site reported that a perimeter was established around buildings and the main threat to those structures had passed.

“Assessment of instrumentation and antennas in the field surrounding the main facility structures, however, is ongoing,” it said.

Bishop, population 3,800, is about 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of Big Pine, home to about 1,700 people in Inyo County. The arid valley lies thousands of feet below the peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the west.

More than 430 personnel, 66 engines, six air tankers and a helicopter were assigned to the fire, which remained under investigation.