Winds whip fires out of control |

Winds whip fires out of control

More than 600 firefighters on Tuesday battled 18 fires in the Eldorado National Forest.

The fires, about 10 miles east of Pollock Pines and south of Highway 50, started Monday morning after high winds spread embers from piles of burning slash and wood debris.

The majority of the burn piles were on private land under the supervision of Sierra Pacific Industries, a logging company, although several were on public land conducted by the U.S. Forest Service.

“The burning of big piles started about two weeks ago,” said Lane Siebenthal, U.S. Forest Service assistant fire information officer. “But Monday winds got to be 40 (mph) and above and spread fire across the forest.”

The fires, named the Plum Complex because the largest fire which has burned between 600 to 1,000 acres, started near Plum Creek about two miles south of Riverton. Combined, all the fires have burned more than 1,800 acres. The largest of these was 50 percent contained late Tuesday.

“They are busy,” said Amy Reid, Forest Service information specialist. “The suppression forces were really stretched thin (Monday).”

On Tuesday, one 25-acre fire was contained just as another 40-acre fire erupted, Reid said. Helicopters and air tankers are being used to battle the fires. Officials estimate the fires will be contained by Thursday.

Eldorado National Forest is a 600,000-acre public forest. Fire restrictions in the forest were lifted Oct. 28 due to colder temperatures and higher levels of humidity.

The Eldorado is a fire-prone forest. In July, the St. Pauli fire, named after a nearby inn, burned 330 acres of public and private forest along Highway 50 at Ice House Road.

In 1992, the Cleveland fire burned 24,000 acres, a mix of public and private land. The fire was named for the Cleveland Corral, a stop along Ice House Road. The Plum fires are southwest of the St. Pauli and Cleveland fires.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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