USFS unhappy with camper |

USFS unhappy with camper

Gregory Crofton

A campfire spread into a small wildland fire Sunday morning near the Mount Tallac Trailhead and burned an area about 50 by 50 feet.

Firefighters let the blaze burn itself out after they ringed it, or cut a trail around the fire to make a border for the burn. They also used chainsaws to section dead trees, which could have created “fuel chain” and caused the fire to spread.

The burn was about a mile south of State Route 89 and a quarter mile from the end of a paved road that leads to the trailhead. A hiker spotted the blaze just before 9 a.m. He ran back to his bike and got to a phone.

The camper who started the fire reportedly told the Forest Service he woke up Sunday to find it had gotten away from him. It is illegal to make a campfire in that area.

“There is a whole gambit of things he did wrong,” said Forest Service Fire Investigator Paul Tyler. “If he was to go the whole gambit, not including the cost to suppress the fire, the fine could come close to $700.”

Tyler said the man failed to create necessary clearance for the campfire and failed to extinguish it before he went to bed. The man’s fire sparked grass and that ignited fallen dead wood near the base of a hill. Cool temperatures overnight and minimal wind created favorable conditions for the firefighters.

“If this had happened a month from now, and if wind came up, we might have been in trouble,” Tyler said. “On those really windy days, that’s when we’re going to get our big fire.”

Ten firefighters from the U. S. Forest Service, Lake Valley Fire Department and South Lake Tahoe Fire Department helped control the fire. Lake Valley and South Lake Tahoe firefighters stayed for about two hours. Forest Service personnel stay on until 3 p.m.

This springtime fire, as well as wildland fires, like the one near Baldwin Beach May 1, have firefighters in the area on high alert early in the year.

“I would say we are six to eight weeks ahead of the time frame, for the fuel load to be this dry in the basin,” said Lake Valley Fire Captain Jerry Lucas. “And it’s been a warm spring.”

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