Slow burn | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Slow burn

Amanda Fehd

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / A tree stump catches fire in a controlled burn area near North Upper Truckee Road. It was quickly extinguished by U.S. Forest Service firefighters on Wednesday.

As a controlled burn continues to smolder in Meyers, fire managers are not just battling lingering smoke, but also dealing with nervous residents as increased winds bring 15-foot flames.

More than 1,000 piles of forest debris were lit on fire last week by the U.S. Forest Service over a 120-acre area west of North Upper Truckee Road.

If this debris is not eliminated, it could make a wildfire burn hotter, increasing fire danger to homes in the area, fire managers said.

But some cannot go to sleep at night with flames licking at trees behind their own back yard. Instead of sleep, they call 911.

Lake Valley Fire Protection District fielded 25 calls in the last few days, one after midnight last night after a tree lit on fire.

Some residents wondered why all 120 acres were lit at once, or why they have not seen Forest Service personnel at night monitoring the fire.

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“I think they bit off more than they could chew and they are doing a cover-up on their inadequacies of watching the fire at night,” said Ric Patterson, a homeowner in the area. He walked through the area for more than two hours Tuesday night and did not see anyone, he said.

Fire manager Kit Bailey said Monday there are only a few hours when the Forest Service is not on scene.

Such flames are normal, said Rex Norman, spokesman for the Forest Service in Tahoe. When wind comes in, it clears out smoke, but also stokes embers.

“It always looks very dramatic at night even in mild wind conditions,” Norman said.

While most 911 calls were for flare-ups that were not a concern, in a couple of instances, the fire needed to be put out, said Jeff Michael, Lake Valley fire chief.

Public education is key in prescribed fire, he said. While the fire department stands 100 percent behind the Forest Service’s efforts, he said, they believe public outreach could be improved.

“We met with the Forest Service this morning to look at what can we do to better alleviate the public’s concern,” said Michael. “Hopefully we’ll have a solution in the near future.”

The solution may have come Wednesday night in the form of snow.