Two small fires knocked down quickly; flare-up reported in Angora burn area |

Two small fires knocked down quickly; flare-up reported in Angora burn area

Charles Sizemore
Firefighters respond to a wildland fire on Monday afternoon that started near an illegal campsite. / Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune

A ground fire charred a small area of woods behind Raley’s near Stateline on Monday afternoon. Although the exact cause has not been confirmed, the blaze burned within feet of an illegal camp littered with cigarette butts.

The fire is one of three small blazes that occurred on Monday.

A Harrah’s Lake Tahoe dispatcher first noticed the smoke coming out of the woods near the Heavenly Mountain Resort gondola and alerted casino surveillance, according to Harrah’s security officer Tony Marsico. Casino surveillance confirmed there was in fact a fire burning, and a casino employee then called the fire department.

“We didn’t see it in the tree tops, but it would plume up, then go down and you couldn’t see it, then it would plume back up,” said Marsico.

Firefighters responded to the fire and quickly contained the blaze.

The U.S. Forest Service responded with six engines, one hand crew, an air tanker, a helicopter and an air attack, said John Washington, fuels battalion chief for the agency. The South Lake Tahoe fire department supplied two engines, Lake Valley fire department supplied three and Douglas County supplied two.

The camp sat unoccupied as firefighters extinguished the last remaining embers and dug a trench around the fire. Camping is not allowed in that area, authorities said.

Poles and an old gutter served as support for the shelter made of blankets and sheets. There was a makeshift patio with chairs and a table. Cigarette butts were strewn about the area, along with empty vodka bottles, soda cans and other trash.

Each year the Forest Service responds to about 20 fires that are started by homeless people living in such camps, making up about 15-20 percent of the total fires the Forest Service puts out, Washington said.

An El Dorado County Sheriff’s deputy at the scene declined to comment on the investigation.

Earlier in the day, Tahoe Douglas firefighters quickly snuffed a small blaze started by a tractor in the Glenbrook area that crawled within 50 feet of homes, according to police scanner reports. No damages were reported.

Finally, Forest Service crews responded to smoke within the Angora burn area at about 5:30 p.m. No damage was reported.

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