Fire sweeps close to Fallen Leaf Lake |

Fire sweeps close to Fallen Leaf Lake

Susan Wood and Jeff Munson
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / A tree bursts into flames during the Cathedral fire Monday.

FALLEN LEAF LAKE – Cabins and other structures were threatened but no damage or injuries were reported Monday in a 20-acre wildland fire that erupted in pine trees with 40-foot high flames by the Desolation Wilderness on a ridge north of Fallen Leaf Lake.

After initial reports of “significant spread” that threatened cabins and other structures in the area, attack on the Cathedral fire with four tankers and two helicopters had slowed the spread, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Twelve engines and four handcrews from the U.S. Forest Service, Tahoe Douglas Fire, California Department of Forestry and South Lake Tahoe Fire were dispatched to the scene. They will remain there overnight to watch for any flareups. Containment is expected by 6 p.m. today.

Battalion Chief Scott Douglass said their concerns lie with the dry and windy conditions – especially with the fire “torching” the high trees.

No cause was reported as of press time.

The fire was called in at about 12:34 p.m. and traveled with wind gusts clocked at 18 mph, consuming manzanita, igniting three spot fires and other brush in a matter of seconds off the Tallac Trail. The popular route into the Desolation Wilderness begins near Camp Shelley off Highway 89.

Hikers were scurrying down the Tallac Trail Monday afternoon, and some were caught in the spray of retardant from the air tankers.

“We were just going on a hike and stayed too long,” South Shore resident Richard Reeves said on the trail with Raenne Wilson. Their skin was covered with the fire retardant, which is non-toxic.

Magnus Sgloberg of Livermore also got turned around from his hike up Mount Tallac.

“The high winds aren’t helping,” he said, dashing under a tree as a helicopter flew by.

Businesses at Fallen Leaf Lake were keeping a keen eye on the direction of the smoke, and no evacuations at the lake had been reported.

“We can see the smoke, and we’re definitely keeping our eyes open,” said Blair Caley at Stanford Sierra Camp. The sentiment was the same at the Fallen Leaf Lake General Store.

Some of the fire path moved with the westerly and southwest winds into an area with large rocks and the lake, making it a natural barrier, said Peggy O’Connell, a Forest Service dispatcher. While flames had come close to cabins in the area, fire crews stood nearby the homes to protect them, she added.

Trees were reportedly burning rapidly in the area, with at least four trees burning at their crowns. The fire produced a heavy amount of smoke that at one point created a huge plume skyward.

Fire engines were staged at the meadow area beyond the Highway 89 Snopark off of Cathedral Road.

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