Wildfire ignites near Freel Peak | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wildfire ignites near Freel Peak

Gregory Crofton

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / A U.S. Forest Service fire hand crew heads up High Meadow Trail to access a wildland fire near Star Lake probably ignited by lightning.

A lightning strike Thursday evening likely started a wildfire at the southern end of the Lake Tahoe Basin near Freel Peak.

At 6 p.m., U.S. Forest Service Fire Management Officer Kit Bailey stood on the side of Pioneer Trail west of Golden Bear Trail and used binoculars to study a plume of smoke coming off a ridge near Star Lake above High Meadow.

“It looks like a quarter-acre fire right now,” Bailey said. “It’s hard to tell if it’s on both sides of the ridge or not. It might not be in the basin. It may be in the Toiyabe (national forest).”

By 6:30 p.m., Bailey had ordered two Forest Service trucks to carry 20 firefighters up a logging road at the end of High Meadow Trail. They were going to hike in, spend the night and work to cut a line around the fire.

“It’s a walk-in for these guys,” Bailey said.

Bailey also requested the service of a Forest Service helicopter to fly over the fire, pinpoint its location and drop buckets of water from Star Lake onto the flames.

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But Bailey said he was unsure when one would arrive because the two nearest Forest Service helicopters, based on the Eldorado National Forest, were committed to other fires. As a result, he requested a helicopter from the Tahoe National Forest, which is farther from South Shore.

The fire was first reported around 5:45 p.m. by an airplane, Bailey said. The report reached the Forest Service through the Federal Aviation Administration. Several lightning strikes were reported in the region.