Floriston fire clouds area skies
A wildland fire crept up the steep and rocky terrain at Floriston, just hundreds of feet off Interstate 80 beginning Sunday afternoon – burning 282 acres of private land, Toiyabe National Forest land and Tahoe National Forest Land.
The fire, which was contained by 6 p.m. Monday, was difficult and dangerous for firefighters to attack because of the challenging terrain, officials said.
According to Steve Hale, a fire information officer for the Toiyabe National Forest, safety concerns included falling rocks, unsure footing, dead trees and cliff areas.
“One firefighter was treated (Monday) and released from the Tahoe Forest Hospital after being hit in the back of the leg by a small rolling rock,” Hale said in an incident information update.
No homes or structures were damaged or in danger from the fire.
Although the cause of the fire is still unknown and under investigation, the origin was located next to a power line along a secondary road parallel to westbound I-80, on the northern side.
Hand crews worked the sides of the fire and dozers worked above the ridge in the flat area upon initial attack, which was coordinated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Sunday afternoon.
Besides a significant number of ground crews working day and night, the fire was also suppressed by airtankers and helicopters which dropped water and fire retardant.
“This fire demonstrated to all of us that the vegetation is ripe for potential large damaging fires this summer,” said CDF Battalion Chief Bryce Keller. “We were fortunate this particular incident was not in an urban intermix setting. We did not have homes that were going to be potentially endangered.”
The fire attack, which began under CDF jurisdiction, was an inter-agency effort which included support from CDF, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Division of Forestry, Truckee Fire and Protection District, Squaw Valley Fire, Donner Summit Fire, Northstar Fire, North Tahoe Fire, North Lake Tahoe Fire and Truckee Meadows Fire.
“The success of these events is because of the cooperative relationship of all involved,” said Keller.
The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District allowed use of Sierra Mountain Middle School where the incident base was set up.
The Floriston fire started two smaller spot fires outside lines of containment, both of which were quickly contained, said officials.
It burned a total of 176 acres of Toiyabe National Forest land, 35 acres on Tahoe National Forest and 71 acres on private land.
Fire crews will continue mop-up operations throughout next week, officials said. Work will include tree fallers dropping hazardous burning dead trees, handcrews improving and widening firelines, and helicopters will continue to drop water to extinguish remaining hot or smoldering fuels.
“We are committed to this incident until it is dead out,” said Keller.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation and fire agencies are working with investigators.
Forest Service officials have begun rehabilitation work by looking at the impact of suppression on vegetation as well as wildlife.
Carrie Smith, archaeologist with the Truckee Ranger District, was brought on as a technical specialist for archaeology and has talked with wildlife and botany specialist with the Tahoe National Forest and the Toiyabe National Forest. She said that a bald eagle who lives at Boca Reservoir was their biggest concern because the helicopter was taking bucket scoops out of the south side of the reservoir.
Forest Service officials working on rehabilitation will also make sure the dozer lines are rehabilitated and work on plans for water bars to help with erosion.
“The overall rehab will not be as extensive as with other fires,” said Smith. “Pretty much there was a great underburn and a lot of green left. Considering how dry it’s been, it could have been worse.”
Smoke can still be seen rising from the area from the I-80, and will continue on for a few days, officials said.
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Motorists on Interstate 80 should expect delays today as the California Department of Transportation continues work on the $2.5 million Farad rockfall project.