Early Sunday morning fire burns near snowsheds above Old Highway 40
An early Sunday morning blaze lit up the dark sky on Donner Summit, causing a glowing fireball to be visible from central Truckee.
At approximately 4 a.m., firefighters from California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Donner Summit Fire were called to the snowshed wall area just off of Old Highway 40 to attack burning debris from the old wooden Union Pacific Railroad snowshed.
“It appeared much worse than it actually was because it was nighttime,” CDF Battalion Chief Bryce Keller said. “Thanks to the swift action of our local firefighters, it was contained in short order.”
Keller said the fire burned approximately 40 by 40 feet of heavy, unstable timbers that were balancing on large rocks. The wooden debris were left over from the early 1980s when the UP reconstructed cement sheds. The fire was human caused, but the particulars are still undetermined, he said.
CDF and DSFD officials called Truckee Fire and Protection District for mutual aid to supply a water tender. A CDF hand crew also responded to the scene. Firefighters made access through the railroad tunnels and snowshed on the inactive railroad bed.
“It took a lot of water and hard work to bring full extinguishment to the fire,” Keller said.
Although there was no damage to surrounding wildland, Keller said the fire had the potential to spread. Fortunately, the fire started during the night when temperatures were cooler and humidity was up.
“Had it been during the daytime, it would have posed a much greater threat to the wildland,” Keller said. “Because the fire occurred during the early morning hours, it was less likely to spot and move through vegetation as rapidly.”
The incident, which occurred just to the left of the snowshed wall climbing area, was in CDF and DSFD jurisdiction and was well contained before sunrise. Keller said that although the fire was quickly contained and caused no damage, it is a reminder that fire season is still in tact.
“We are currently in our peak fire season,” Keller said. “The state of California and our surrounding areas have had and are currently experiencing large damaging fires. We certainly want to encourage people to continue to be fire safe. If they haven’t already completed their defensible space, it’s not too late. It’s an ongoing project from year to year.”
Three years ago, a small fire burned neared the same location.
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