Investigator: Topaz Lake Fire not ‘suspicious,’ Tuesday fire starts appear unrelated |

Investigator: Topaz Lake Fire not ‘suspicious,’ Tuesday fire starts appear unrelated

Kurt Hildebrand |
A fire tanker makes a run at the Payne fire near Woodfords 6 p.m. Tuesday in this photo taken by a reader.
Special to The R-C

While the causes of three fires that started within 90 minutes of one another on Tuesday are under investigation, they don’t appear to be related.

East Fork Fire Marshal Steve Eisele asked that anyone who witnessed the early moments of the fires at Topaz Lake and Ray May Way contact him at 782-9040.

The Nevada Fire Marshal is investigating the 8-acre Topaz Lake fire, Eisele said.

The blaze was reported at 3:24 p.m. and threatened 30-40 homes in Topaz just south of the Topaz Lodge, closing Highway 395 for more than two hours. An outbuilding roof was the only structure damaged in the fire.

Winds gusted to up to 20 mph driving the fire through the neighborhood. At its height, 17 fire engines, five water tenders, two handcrews and a helicopter responded to the blaze, East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini said.

“We don’t feel its suspicious at this time due to the circumstances,” Eisele said of the cause. “But we’re following up on all leads.”

He said the 4-acre Ray May Way fire was definitely caused by human activity, but that BLM investigators haven’t come up with a definitive source.

The fire was reported at 2:28 p.m. about a quarter mile off Highway 395, according to the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch. East Fork firefighters responded to the blaze, but were relieved by Bureau of Land Management crews.

Eisele said the fire near Woodfords may have been started by target shooters.

The 67-acre Payne Fire was reported near Woodfords at 2:03 p.m. On Wednesday, Alpine County Sheriff Rick Stephens and Fire Chief Terry Hughes issued an order prohibiting shooting from Monitor Pass to Woodfords.

Eisele asked that people watch out for ignition sources in the wildland, whether driving, target shooting or other activities in the dry grass.

On Thursday, U.S. Forest Service officials asked that target shooters be careful on public lands.

“We all have a role to play in preventing human-caused wildfires, which annually threaten human life, private property, and public land resources,” said Russ Bird, Forest Fire Management Officer. “It would also help public land managers if target shooters warn others of potential dangers and behaviors for starting wildfires.”

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