Sierra County blaze burns 2,700 acres | SierraSun.com

Sierra County blaze burns 2,700 acres

David Bunker
Sierra Sun
Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunThe Harding Fire burns timber three miles northeast of Sierraville on Thursday.
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More than 300 firefighters, air tankers and helicopters are battling a 2,700-acre fire that is burning the forest about three miles northeast of Sierraville.

The Harding Fire is spreading to the north, but no homes or structure are in immediate danger, according to Rene Smith, a fire information officer with the U.S. Forest Service. The fire was considered 25 percent contained on Thursday afternoon, according to Smith.

Six air tankers, helicopters and 25 engines were attacking the fire Thursday, but the fire has been spurred on by intermittent winds, Smith said.

“That was our concern last night, and it still is our concern ” the wind,” she said.

The fire, which was estimated at 800 acres on Wednesday night, grew quickly to the northeast on Thursday. The wind, which was blowing north on Thursday, was predicted to begin shifting to the west in the evening.

“We are worried about the winds from the east in the evening,” said Smith. “Winds are going to be a huge factor in this fire.”

Large red flames licked the ridges near Antelope Valley, as juniper and pine trees went up in flame on Thursday afternoon. A huge column of smoke rose into the air over the Sierra Valley from the blaze that is located mostly on Forest Service land.

Around 2 p.m. the fire was threatening to cross Antelope Valley Road, a dirt road to the north that firefighters had hoped would block the fire’s spread.

The fire began at about 3 p.m. on Wednesday in a grass field alongside the eastern lane of Highway 49. The cause of the wildfire is still under investigation.

“There was no lightning in the area, so we are leaning toward it being manmade,” Smith said.

Three firefighters were taken to the hospital because of heat injuries on Wednesday. All three were released and were serving light duty on Thursday, Smith said.

The wildfire is burning near an area that was decimated by the 1994 Cottonwood fire. The trees and shrubs in the area are very dry, said Tim Evans, fire information officer with the Tahoe National Forest.

“We haven’t had hardly any rainfall,” said Evans. “That is pretty much how the valley is.”

The wetness of last winter has also made for heavier brush on the ridges that are burning.

“We had a lot of snow over the winter and a lot of fuel buildup,” he said.

Traffic controls have been set up on Highway 49 to allow fire crews to move in and out, but no roads have been closed, according to Smith.

The California Department of Forestry had sent five fire engines, two strike crews, a bulldozer, an air attack plane and two air tankers to the fire, said CDF Information Officer Tina Rose. Two of the engines were based out of Truckee, she said.