Disaster averted at Kingsbury Grade
A small wildland fire broke out late Monday off of Kingsbury Grade, bringing back eerie memories of the Autumn Hills tragedy last year.
Firefighters responded to the scene at 4:53 p.m., on a steep hillside north of Terrace View Drive. Two air tankers, along with crews from the U.S. Forest Service, Tahoe-Douglas Fire District and the Nevada Department of Forestry battled the crawling fire throughout the night.
“The fire is still not contained,” said Forest Service public information officer Jocelyn Biro. “There are some embers jumping up into other areas that aren’t controlled by a fire line.”
Local authorities were also assisted by a team of pink-helmeted “Hot Shots” from Montana. The special firefighting force was in town finishing up preventative drills on urban lots. They will spend today mopping up any smoldering hot spots.
Homes on Terrace View Drive were never in jeopardy and no one was evacuated. One firefighter was taken to Barton Hospital and treated for minor injuries.
Investigators suspect the fire may have been started from human contact. Its origin was reportedly in a circular rockpile used for campfires.
Temperate conditions and an unusually still afternoon lended a helping hand to the fight.
“The fire slowed down once we got on top of it,” said Rich Kraushaar, a Forest Service spokesperson. “Compared to a typical day, the weather has been relatively calm. Today was definitely fall-type conditions.”
Liza Schumacher and Susan Glasson reported seeing smoke after hiking on one of many trails leading to Chimney Rock. The pair hustled down the trail and contacted a homeowner to call 911. They gathered up some shovels and headed back to the fire, approximately 75 yards away from the homes.
“We lost sight of the smoke and then we found it again,” Schumacher said. “We tried to create a fire break and pulled any fuel loads away.”
Schumacher confirmed that the blaze appeared to be between an enclave of rocks.
“It looked to us like someone had started a campfire,” she added.
The steep, rocky terrain is covered with dry, heavy brush and downed trees. The stretch of hiking trails, land owned by the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Management Unit, borders the Toiyabe National Forest.
Firefighters were concerned that the blaze would spread into dense, wooded areas and they might be unable to get a good handle on the changing wind direction.
“It was for awhile burning into heavier fuels but we had hoses and air support up on the hill,” Kraushaar said. “That area is very rocky with a lot of dead trees.”
Lisa and Jeff Bryan were driving home from work when they spotted the dark plume of smoke rising in the distance. They were reminded of the Autumn Hills fire last June that damaged 3,400 acres, four homes and cost approximately $4.5 million. They were hoping for the best and received the good news upon entering their driveway.
“I think when you see smoke you always get worried,” said Lisa Bryan. “It was reminiscent of what happened last year. I guess today the wind was blowing in the right direction.”
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