Fire to the west |

Fire to the west

Two large fires burned within 25 miles of the West Shore of Lake Tahoe on Monday, sending smoke into the basin and creating questions for residents.

“The calls are coming from everywhere – North Shore, Tahoe City, Incline,” said Kory Rodriguez, a dispatcher at South Lake Tahoe Police Department. “We got a ton Sunday; today we’ve only gotten probably five or six in the past half hour.”

The Star fire, which started Saturday along the Middle Fork of the American River, was a 3,800-acre blaze burning out of control Monday afternoon. The Bear fire, which started Sunday in Tahoe National Forest about six miles from Sugar Pine Point State Park, is a 165-acre blaze that was 50 percent contained.

An airplane first spotted and reported smoke from the Star fire, which started in the Eldorado National Forest and has since spilled over into the Tahoe National Forest, said Gordin Gay, a fire information officer for U.S. Forest Service.

“The weather is changing this afternoon and we’re not sure what it’s going to do,” Gay said.

The fire burned northeast on Sunday, forcing the evacuation of two Forest Service campgrounds, Hellhole and French Meadows, and five mountain roads.

Gay said Monday that 580 firefighters, six air tankers, six helicopters and 16 engines battled the fire, which is burning in steep, rocky terrain.

“It got close to French Meadow recreation area this morning, but no homes or communities are being threatened by fire and no communities have been evacuated,” he said. One firefighter broke his arm, but no major injuries have been reported.

The Bear fire prompted officials Monday morning to shut down a central section of the McKinney-Rubicon Trail, a popular place for off-road drivers.

“The fire is one mile northwest of the trail … close to Long Lake,” said Debby Broback, fire information officer for U.S. Forest Service. “We’re anticipating the Rubicon will be closed through tomorrow depending on the activity of fire and the wind and weather.”

The human-caused blaze started in a recreational area about six miles west of Sugar Pine Point State Park, Broback said. It is named the Bear fire because initially it was believed to be closer to Bear Lake than Long Lake.

Broback said Rubicon Trail, which is 22.5 miles long, is closed at the 03-4 intersection. That intersection is about 12 miles from an entrance to the trail at McKinney-Rubicon road, which is on the West Shore between Tahoma and Homewood.

The Forest Service has two hand crews, 24 smokejumpers and a helicopter battling the fire.

“It’s burning brush and timber in what we call ‘stringers,'” Broback said. “There’s a lot of granite up there. At this stage I don’t think it will get to the basin but there are always variables and it’s so, so dry out there.”

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