Fire near gondola is second this month
July 16, 2009
For the second time in as many weeks, a wildfire broke out under the Heavenly Mountain Resort gondola Thursday afternoon.
About 4:20 p.m. on Thursday, dispatchers received a report of smoke and flames near the base of tower 14, approximately midway up the portion of the gondola visible from Highway 50.
Firefighters from agencies including South Lake Tahoe Fire Department, Lake Valley Fire Protection District, U.S. Forest Service, and CalFire responded to the call and assembled near the barn on the Van Sickle property.
The blaze, named the Loop fire, grew to about 10-by-10 feet, but was not spreading when firefighters arrived, said Kit Bailey, the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit fire management officer.
About 5 p.m., firefighters were running hoses to the fire and a firefighting helicopter began to drop buckets of water on the blaze, which appeared to be out by Thursday evening.
Gondola service was shut down because of the fire and several hikers had to be brought down from Heavenly via truck, said Heavenly spokesman Russ Pecoraro.
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Information on the cause of the Loop fire was not immediately available Thursday evening.
On July 4, a small brush fire broke out in roughly the same location as Thursday’s fire and grew to about 20-by-20 feet.
The exact cause of that fire, known as the Montreal fire, is unknown, said Forest Service spokeswoman Cheva Heck.
“While the Montreal fire was definitely human-caused – in other words, no lightning strikes were recorded – we are not going to be able to determine an exact cause, because there was no physical evidence,” Heck said in an e-mail. “So speculation as to it being a cigarette remains just that – speculation.”
On July 3, 2002, a discarded cigarette sparked a fire that began near gondola Tower 11, consumed 672 acres and forced evacuations.
The cause of Thursday’s fire is under investigation, but two fires underneath the Gondola in the past two weeks has caused Heavenly to increase its efforts to inform visitors about the resort’s smoking policy.
“The gondola has always been a no-smoking service and we’ve stepped up that messaging,” Pecoraro said.
– Tribune Managing Editor Elaine Goodman contributed to this story.