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Two similar fires over weekend

Christina Proctor

Cold weather, dry conditions and a wood stove combined to set two homes ablaze this weekend.

A U.S. Forest Service cabin at the top of Echo Summit on Echo Road was ignited Sunday by embers from the chimney landing on a wood shake roof. Investigators believe a roof fire in a home on Grass Lake Way in Upper Lake Valley began much the same way Saturday afternoon.

“Sparks came out of the chimney and landed on the 20-year-old wood shingle roof,” said Lake Valley Fire Battalion Chief Brian Eakin. “This time of year we see an increase in this type of fire. It’s cold enough that people are starting to use their wood stoves, but we haven’t had any kind of precipitation to dampen the roof.”

Joseph Holt, 50, was inside his house in the 1000 block of Grass Lake Way, sitting in the living room when he heard some noise in the attic area, Eakin said.

When Holt went upstairs to investigate he found smoke, going outside he saw his roof was on fire. Three Lake Valley fire engines, one South Lake Tahoe engine, a water tender and a 4,000-gallon tank water truck responded around 5:29 p.m. on Saturday.

Eakin said half of the roof was completely engulfed in flames when fire fighters arrived. Eakin said firefighters were able to knock down the fire within 20 minutes while protecting much of Holt’s property from water damage.

Holt suffered some smoke inhalation and was given oxygen at the scene, Eakin said.

Eakin estimated the structure and contents damage at around $75,000. Half the roof was destroyed, Eakin said.

Firefighters at the Lake Valley Station off of State Route 89 noticed the smoke on Echo Summit Sunday around 4:22 p.m. and were already responding when the call came out.

Battalion Chief Curt Warren said the 800-square-foot, one-room cabin was totally in flames when they arrived. Warren said he was told by the caretaker that the cabin’s owners had been there for the weekend and left for their home in Eugene, Ore. around 2 p.m.

“There is every indication right now that embers started a roof fire that extended into the attic, causing the roof to collapse. The roof fell into the main living area,” Warren said.

U.S. Forest Service firefighters also responded because of the risk of a wildland fire. Warren said several large trees near the cabin had undergone a “chimney effect” and had fire burning within the tree. Wood shakes from the roof were found as far as 200 feet from the fire so a Lake Valley engine stayed at the site all night on a fire watch.

Warren estimated the damage at $80,000. The cabin was considered a total loss.

“People are starting to use their fireplaces, but we have not had the moisture to dampen down the wood shakes. Pine needles also ignite very easily,” Warren said.

Eakin said there are some steps residents can do to protect their homes.

n Have your chimney cleaned and inspected for cracks.

n Keep pine needles off the roof.

n Make sure the fireplace flue has a cap with a spark arrester, which helps stop sparks from flying out and landing back down on the roof surface.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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