Fire crews have toehold on Washington Fire burning near Lake Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Fire crews have toehold on Washington Fire burning near Lake Tahoe

Kurt Hildebrand
The Record-Courier

The sign along Highway 4 describing the climb to Ebbetts Pass.

GENOA, Nev. — Firefighters were able to make headway against the 16,543-acre Washington fire on Tuesday, building a line around 5 percent of the fire.

More importantly, the fire that's burning several miles southeast of Lake Tahoe has remained nearly the same distance from Markleeville for the last 24 hours, officials said.

The blaze continues to burn actively along Highway 89 near Zaca Mine and north of Heenan Lake in the north.

In the south, the fire is burning near Wolf Creek Meadows away from town, according to mapping data displayed on the U.S. Geological Survey's Geomac viewer last updated at 2:38 a.m. Wednesday.

Markleeville residents have been under threat of evacuation since Sunday.

On Tuesday morning, Incident Commander Chris Wilcox told residents he understood how they felt.

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"It's an emotional roller coaster every morning," he said. "A cold air mass builds over the fire causing an inversion. As the morning heats up, it breaks up the inversion.

"Every morning you get hope the fire is lying down, and in the afternoon when the fire stands up, you lose that hope."

The good news is the fire has not extended much beyond the perimeter it had on Monday.

Nearly 700 firefighters are working the fire, which is the only large fire burning in the Great Basin area, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center Incident Management Situation Report issued at 4:30 a.m. today.

According to the report, the fire has so far cost $2.8 million.

A dozen helicopters and 10 air tankers supported up to 17 hand crews in fighting the fire, according to the report.

While the report indicates one structure was lost, Sheriff Rick Stephens confirmed on Tuesday that historic mining cabins along Silver Hills Road were burned in the fire.

The fire is burning in the Silver Hills Mining District where Alpine County's original county seat was located.

Highway 4 from Ebbetts Pass to the junction with Highway 89 remains closed Wednesday morning.

Highway 89 from just north of Markleeville over Monitor Pass to the junction of Highway 395 is also closed. Highway 89 is open from Markleeville to Woodfords and beyond.

Turtle Rock and Indian Creek campgrounds are closed for fire operations. Small tankers and helicopters are using Alpine County Airport as a base for operations.

BAD AIR DAY

Smoke from the Washington Fire is making for another murky morning Wednesday in the Carson Valley.

Air quality was in the unhealthy range, according to the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection’s air quality monitor in the Gardnerville Ranchos.

People with heart or lung disease, older adults and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion, while everyone else should reduce their activity, according to the health advisory.

Air quality dropped to 181 around 4 a.m. and will probably continue around there until the breeze begins to clear it out around 11 a.m. today.

On Tuesday, the air quality index peaked at 302 at 5 a.m.

As of Wednesday, smoke was not forecast to filter into the Lake Tahoe Basin, although that may change pending unpredictable weather shifts.