Curiosity would be dangerous at fire site |

Curiosity would be dangerous at fire site

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune
Don Lane, United States Forest Service recreation officer, watches from the side of Echo Summit as the Showers fire burns on Monday.

About 10,000 people each year use the beautiful, roadless U.S. Forest Service land known as Meiss country.

It’s home to six lakes with 15 square miles of wilderness spanning from Highway 89 along the southern rim of the Lake Tahoe Basin to Carson Pass.

Meiss (pronounced “mice”, after a German family), now has a new visitor: a 294-acre smoldering and dangerous piece of land created by the Showers fire, a blaze sparked by a downed plane Monday morning.

Don Lane, a U.S. Forest Service recreation officer at Lake Tahoe Basin for more than 30 years, who spent summers at Meiss as a ranger in the 1970s, has a couple of messages for the public: the deaths of the two people on the plane is a tragedy, but the fire could have been worse.

It burned the most remote section of Meiss country, a rugged area filled with rocks, trees and canyons, away from popular camping sites at Round and Dardanelles lakes.

Secondly, Lane wants the public to know the burn area is closed. He also recommends hikers and campers stay out of surrounding areas until the fire is totally extinguished. Dead trees or snags in the area could fall any second or winds could easily ignite a spot fire.

“People are interested, they want to see what damage occurred,” Lane said. “But just because you don’t see helicopters flying in dropping water doesn’t mean it’s suddenly safe.”

Big Meadow Trailhead, a key entrance to Meiss, is closed and will remain closed until emergency vehicles are no longer needed in the area. Trails that lead to the burned area are marked with signs, or staffed with Forest Service employees, to warn people to keep out of the fire area.

“Crews are still kicking over logs that are hot and smoking,” Lane said. “They still have a lot of ground to cover. It may look like it’s not on fire, yet the root system is burning underground.”

Lane said the blaze burned right up to 89, and came within 400 yards of Big Meadow trail. A mile-long section of Dardanelles loop, a popular trail that parallels the Upper Truckee River, was in the path of the fire. Lane said resource specialists were out Wednesday surveying damage done to the area.

Even without a raging wildfire, Dardanelles loop attracts downed trees like a dog does fleas.

“It’s one of the first trails we log out each spring,” Lane said. “This year we had 15 to 20 trees, some 4 or 5 feet in diameter.”

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

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