Crews gain on Star Fire | SierraSun.com

Crews gain on Star Fire

Charles Levinson, Sierra Sun

Gusts up to 30 miles per hour on Wednesday and steep, inaccessible terrain are making it difficult for crews battling the Star Fire, but backfires begun Monday night have been effective.

Fifty-seven percent of the fire was contained as of Wednesday morning.

The fire is burning hottest at the bottom of steep Duncan Canyon, three miles southwest of the dam at French Meadows reservoir. Helicopters have taken on the brunt of the fight in Duncan Canyon while hand crews work through the nights lighting backfires on the northeast corner of the fire.

Though the fire is still growing, it has slowed significantly, burning between 300 and 400 additional acres per day. As of Wednesday morning it had consumed 12,520 acres of land.

The backfires were began Monday night when there was a temporary shift in the winds. A spokesperson for the Tahoe National Forest, Gordon Gay, said that the backfires had been effective.

“[The backfires] are going pretty well,” he said. “They continued through [Tuesday] night and into the morning. They stopped for the day; humidity dropped.”

A cool front was expected to move in sometime Wednesday, but winds increased, gusting up to 30 mph. Winds were expected to shift, blowing again out of the southwest and possibly returning the basin to a fog of smoke, Gay said.

To date, the fire has cost $13.5 million. Full containment is expected by Friday.

Twelve helicopters, eight air tankers and 2,100 people from 29 states are battling the fire, which began 11 days ago on Eldorado National Forest side of the Middle Fork of the American River. Eleven injuries have been reported, most of them minor. A burning snag fell on a firefighter and broke his hip.

No structures have been damaged. The damtender’s house at French Meadows reservoir was in the path of the fire but crews were able to save it. The cause of the fire is not known, but is believed have been caused by humans.

The 91-acre Bear Fire, which began the same day as the Star Fire six miles west of Sugar Pine Point Park in the Tahoe National Forest, was reported 100 percent contained as of last Friday.

Investigators on the Bear Fire saw signs of what may have been an abandoned campfire at the point of origin. John Holcomb, fire management officer for the Truckee Ranger District, said that in a normal snow year the Bear Fire would have burnt no more than one-tenth of an acre.