Fire near Lake Tahoe prompts national forest campfire ban
GEORGETOWN, Calif. (AP) – A 10,500-acre forest fire burning west of Lake Tahoe prompted the Tahoe National Forest to ban campfires at all 87 of its developed campgrounds Friday.
The ban on campfires and barbecues is the first in seven years in the forest, which stretches 1.2 million acres from the edge of the Tahoe basin up to Sierra City and down to Foresthill.
Camp stove and lanterns can still be used. Campfire permits are required for stoves and lanterns used outside of developed recreation sites.
Smoking is allowed only in vehicles and developed recreation sites.
The ban comes as 2,100 firefighters and personnel battle the Star Fire, which burned for the ninth day Sunday along the Middle Fork of the American River and the Eldorado and Tahoe national forests about 25 miles from Lake Tahoe.
The 11,940 acre fire is 45 percent contained.
Firefighters faced the flames in steep, heavily forested terrain, as boulders ”the size of Volkswagens fell within feet” of them, said Pat Kaunert, fire information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.
”These conditions are some of the driest I’ve ever seen. They’re literally explosive,” Kaunert said. He urged all campers to check in with local ranger stations to learn the fire restrictions.
Columns of smoke exploded to a height of 20,000 feet where tufts of ice crystals formed, making it ”a storm of fire and ice,” Kaunert said.
The fire threatens some backcountry treasures – popular campgrounds at French Meadows Reservoir and the Sierra’s most northerly stand of old-growth sequoia trees.
The 91 acre Bear Fire near Barker Pass on the Tahoe National Forest, which has been contained, was likely started by a campfire. The nearby Gap fire and a major fire in Washington at which four firefighters were killed were also started by campfires.
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