Washington Fire near Lake Tahoe now 10 percent contained | SierraSun.com

Washington Fire near Lake Tahoe now 10 percent contained

Kurt Hildebrand
khildebrand@recordcourier.com

GENOA, Nev. — Firefighters have doubled the amount of line they've built around the 17,205-acre Washington Fire, bringing it to 10 percent containment on Thursday.

An estimated 900 firefighters were working the blaze. It was first reported 7 p.m. June 19. It grew from 75 acres on Saturday afternoon to nearly 15,000 acres on Monday night and at one point, it had come within two miles of the historic town of Markleeville.

As of press time Thursday, the fire was moving away from the town. Fire officials Thursday morning said the 250 homes in the Markleeville area remain their primary focus. Containing the fire where it's burning near Monitor Pass and Wolf Creek are also priorities.

On Wednesday, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited the scene of the fire, along with California Resources Secretary John Laird.

Single-engine air tankers have been flying out of Minden-Tahoe Airport this week in support of the 30 hand crews, (some members of whom are from Tahoe-Truckee districts) 43 engines and 11 water tenders fighting the blaze. A dozen helicopters are dropping water on the fire.

Also helping, for a change, are two days of relatively light winds in the area, which have allowed firefighters to work safely on the blaze, officials said.

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Despite the advantage, portions of the fire continue to smolder and strong winds could turn those embers into flames.

While firefighters are expecting one more day of light winds, this time out of the north, officials said thunderstorms caused by high temperatures will be a concern into the weekend.

A fire weather watch has been issued for Western Nevada and Eastern California for Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening, due to thunderstorms and high outflow winds that could gust to 55 mph.

According to the National Interagency Coordination Center Incident Management Situation Report, the fire has cost more than $3 million to fight.

The fire was started by a lightning strike earlier this month that didn't start to show itself until 7 p.m. Friday. By Saturday evening, high winds drove the fire into a frenzy, causing it to quadruple in size and then quintuple.

Highway 89 from Highway 395 over Monitor Pass to the junction with Highway 4 is closed. Highway 4 is closed from Markleeville to Ebbetts Pass.

Indian Creek and Turtle Rock campground are closed. However, the Pacific Crest Trail remains open.

Bad air days

Smoke from the Washington Fire made for several murky days in the Carson Valley this week.

On Thursday, it had begun to filter into the Truckee-Tahoe region.

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 health officials.