Gap Fire may be contained Friday |

Gap Fire may be contained Friday

Firefighters are still battling a Tahoe National Forest fire that has so far burned more than 2,400 acres and caused road closures and evacuations throughout the area.

Total containment is expected sometime late today or early Friday.

“We had a pretty good night last night,” said TNF public information officer Ross Trotter. “We got lucky in terms of weather. The high winds didn’t materialize.”

Trotter said there was a possibility that some of the initial attack fighters would be relieved by the end of the day. Also, the Suppression Rehabilitation Team began assessing damage to the watershed, archeological sites and the soil.

Interstate 80 was open to traffic both ways but westbound traffic was reduced to one lane. Evacuations continued for Lake Valley, Emigrant Gap, Yuba Gap, Snowflower, the Marin Sierra Boy Scout Camp, Spaulding Reservoir, Donner Mine Camp and Beumont Road.

The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation, although an abandoned illegal campsite is under suspicion, Trotter said.

The blaze began Sunday around 1:30 p.m. about two miles south of Emigrant Gap on Onion Valley Road. By Sunday evening, the fire had burned 60 acres and smoke could be seen as far as Roseville.

On Monday morning the fire had grown to 300 acres and doubled by afternoon, forcing closures of I-80 that caused backups as far as Carson City. Highway 20 was closed from Nevada City to I-80.

Several sparsely populated areas were evacuated along the Placer-Nevada County line at the Yuba Gap. A house and a nearby storage shed near Yuba Gap were destroyed on Monday and remain the only reported buildings lost in the fire.

A few families were evacuated from Bear Valley.

“The biggest danger we have is fire,” said Paul Moan, one of the Bear Valley residents. “It’s the only bad thing about living here, other than mosquitoes.”

By Monday evening, high winds and dry wildland caused the fire to spread over 1,600 acres. Flame heights were reported to be as high as 300 feet.

“When the heat of the day picks up, fire behavior becomes more aggressive,” TNF spokeswoman Ann Westling said.

At the end of the day Monday, the firefighting force included 550 people, 23 engines, four water tenders, three helicopters, six air tankers and nine bulldozers. The fire was only 10 percent contained and officials predicted it might not be fully contained until Monday, Aug. 20.

Tuesday fared better for firefighters. By Tuesday afternoon the fire was 35 percent contained and the total containment date was bumped up three days to Friday.

“We’ve had a lot of air attack up there,” said TNF fire information officer Kim Jackson, adding that the fire didn’t move much Tuesday morning.

The firefighting force on Tuesday had grown to 1,115 people, 77 engines, nine water tenders, five helicopters with one on the way from Texas, six air tankers, two other planes, 35 hand crews and eight bulldozers.

So far, the fire has cost $2.2 million. Its estimated total cost is $8 million and 4,000 acres burned.

Only one injury, a broken ankle, has been reported.

Fire Facts:

— 2,462 acres burned as of 2 p.m. Wednesday

— 1,200+ firefighters are on the scene

— Total costs estimated at $8 million

— Containment likely by this weekend

— More stories, page 2A, 3A, 14A

Additional reporting by Doug Mattson.

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