California: Inyo Creek Fire shuts Mount Whitney trailhead; hikers forced to abandon cars

Inyo Creek Fire shuts Mount Whitney trailhead; hikers forced to abandon carsshuttershock

A wildfire that has reached 1,000 acres has forced the closure of Mount Whitney’s eastern trailhead. Hikers are being evacuated and some have had to abandon their cars.

The Inyo Creek Fire, believed to have been started by lightning, was discovered early Saturday in steep terrain southeast of Whitney Portal.

By noon Monday, it had burned 100 acres, and the U.S. Forest Service and Inyo County Sheriff’s Office were evacuating all visitors from Whitney Portal, a busy trailhead with a store and a campground. “This is a one-way-in, one-way-out road, and it is critical to evacuate to reduce the possibility of a chaotic situation,” said an announcement from Inyo National Forest.

There was a plan to escort evacuated hikers back to the parking lot Tuesday morning to pick up their vehicles, but the fire grew to more than 1,000 acres overnight and the operation was canceled, the Inyo National Forest said.

Rangers are trying to get word to backpackers on the Pacific Crest Trail and other Sierra trails that they will not be allowed to exit at Whitney Portal and should take an alternative route out.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for residents of the Olivas Ranch and Portal Preserve areas and all homes on Whitney Portal Road west of Horseshoe Meadows Road.

Another wildfire off Whitney Portal Road was contained Monday. The Alabama Fire started Friday by lightning and burned 560 acres west of the Alabama Hills area.

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