Smoke, but no fire, throughout area |

Smoke, but no fire, throughout area

Thick smoke from Sierra wildfires filled the Lake Tahoe Basin and Truckee area on Monday, tying up police lines with hundreds of calls from concerned visitors and residents.

The South Lake Tahoe Police Department received about 80 calls in one hour questioning the cause of the smoke, according to Cmdr. George Brown. By 8 p.m., dispatchers had counted nearly 150 calls, many of them made directly to the emergency 911 number.

“It’s just ridiculous the number of calls we’re getting,” Brown said. “People are calling to see if the smoke is related to a fire in the basin. People are even calling 911, which is certainly not what 911 is intended for.”

As of 8 p.m., Douglas County sheriff’s dispatchers reported getting at least 150 calls about the smoke, which spilled into the Carson Valley.

Pete Hammontre, a volunteer staffing a fire information center in Auburn, Calif., said he’d received more than a dozen calls from Tahoe residents.

“There’s a concern,” Hammontre said. “Some of them wanted to know if the Emigrant Gap fire flared up.”

It didn’t. Pushed by southwesterly winds, the dense haze came from fires on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada, according to the National Weather Service.

The largest, the fast-moving Creek fire had burned more than 6,000 acres in Mariposa and Tuolumne counties by Monday night. Full containment isn’t expected until Saturday, officials said.

Nearly 1,300 firefighters attacked the fire, a suspected arson that closed Highway 49 and sections of Highway 120. More than 4,000 structures were threatened, and evacuations were under way in Coulterville and Jackass Ridge.

The Leonard fire, in Calaveras County, started Sunday and burned more than 2,100 acres by Monday afternoon. With nearly 900 fire personnel fighting the blaze, the fire was only 10 percent contained, according to Jean Hector, a volunteer public information officer at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“It’s primarily heavy brush with oak woodland,” Hector said. “We have no idea when it will be under control but approximately 300 homes are threatened and 50 outbuildings.”

Three buildings were destroyed, with 200 residents forced to evacuate.

The Ponderosa fire, in Placer County, started Friday near Colfax south of Interstate 80. The fire, which spread over 2,600 acres, was 80 percent contained Monday, with total containment expected by 8 p.m. Tuesday.

More than 2,200 fire personnel from throughout California are fighting the blaze, which started from a vehicle fire. Tahoe-Douglas fire crews are on site, Assistant Chief Bruce VanCleemput said.

“The smoke in the American River Canyon is going into Nevada County, Placer County and north up to Tahoe,” said JoAnn Cartoscelli, CDF information officer.

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