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Two campfires left unattended, one ignites tree

Gregory Crofton

Tribune staff writer
Provided to the Tahoe Daily Tribune Lettering paint bubbled on the side of a Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District truck while at the Waterfall fire.
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The U.S. Forest Service extinguished two unattended campfires at South Shore on Sunday. One of the fires ignited a fallen tree in the area of Oneidas Street near the Power line trail before someone spotted it and called 911.

“People need to be vigilant and they need to be careful with campfires and be sure to put them out,” said Kit Bailey, Forest Service fire management officer for the Lake Tahoe Basin. “We don’t need an abandoned campfire starting a major incident.”

Fire investigators have determined an illegal, abandoned campfire started the Waterfall fire last week which destroyed 15 homes and burned 7,600 acres along the foothills west of Carson City.

The fire threat at Tahoe is real, so real the Forest Service took a number of measures to protect the basin from the Waterfall fire, which at its closest came within a mile of the basin.

Bailey called in a Type 1 management team, 50 of highest trained fire managers, and stationed them at Incline Village. By Thursday seven hand crews and 10 engines were inside the basin ready to defend it.

“We were ready,” Bailey said. “It never threatened any trigger points, but it came close.”

Bailey said the fire crept slowly uphill through timber toward the basin, getting as close as a mile from its edge. Typically fire moves uphill 16 times faster than it does on level ground, but with the Waterfall, the wind worked in favor of the basin.

“If we had had an east-southeast wind, then it could have been a major deal,” Bailey said. “But there was a strong southwest flow, which really caused a lot of problems (in the valley) but it helped us. The wind was just more powerful than the slope.”

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com


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