Controlled burns continue to smoke in hills behind Glenbrook |

Controlled burns continue to smoke in hills behind Glenbrook

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The minimal snowpack has U.S. Forest Service crews working briskly to eliminate piles of wood slashed from forests at the Lake Tahoe Basin.

They’ve been able to burn more than 1,000 acres of wood slashed from the forest — twice of what is usually accomplished — because crews have been able to get to the wood because it’s not covered in snow.

But the dry weather will have its consequences, say fire officials, as summer temperatures arrive and fire danger at the Lake Tahoe Basin escalates. Last summer was the worst fire season at the basin in decades. Two large wildfires at South Shore burned about 1,100 acres.

The U.S. Forest Service for the last week has been burning wood thinned from the forest near Glenbrook, a community off Highway 50 south of Spooner Summit. Glenbrook is home to Slaughterhouse Canyon, where the risk of fire is high because drought conditions in the late 1980s left thousands of standing and fallen dead trees.

Burning at Glenbrook began last month with crews eliminating 27 acres of slashed wood at the north edge of Slaughterhouse Canyon. Today crews are in the process of burning 137 acres of wood piles southeast of the canyon, many of which are close to Glenbrook homes.

The Forest Service took a break from burning there on Thursday having already accomplished 75 percent of the workload. Burning is expected to resume today with the predicted stormy weather helping to move smoke out of the basin and any rain or snow helping to ensure control of the burns.

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“So far the smoke been has been going up and away from the Glenbrook area, which is a good thing,” said Mark Johnson, Forest Service fuels specialist. “It’s been going up and over communities in western Nevada — Washoe Valley, Carson City.”

The agency has received a lot of calls from curious people, not because smoke was irritating them, but because they were wondering whether there was a forest fire, Johnson said.

The fire department at Incline Village, called the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, has also taken advantage of the mild winter.

The department is unique in that it protects the homes in its district and has a separate staff that does pile burning at the North Shore for agencies such as the Forest Service.

“We’ve burned a lot,” said Jim Lindardos, chief of the department. “The drawback is that we will pay for that this summer if we don’t finish up with a decent snowpack. We have a grossly overstocked forest here and trees need a lot of water. If they don’t get the water, they’re drying out.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at