We Get Support From:
Become a Supporter 
 We Get Support From:
Become a Supporter 

Cal Fire Crews Join Battle Against Washington Fire



6:15 p.m. - The Washington Fire south of Markleeville has grown to 17,205 acres and is 10 percent contained. More than 900 firefighters are working the lightning-caused wildfire in Alpine County.

Fire managers are concerned about warmer temperatures that are in the weather forecast through Saturday.  Record high temperatures are likely starting Thursday and there is the possibility of thunderstorms.

Simtable / YubaNet.com

1:00 p.m. - Firefighters from Cal Fire are now helping crews battle the 16,544 acre Washington Fire, burning about three miles south of Markleeville in Alpine County. The current containment now is 5 percent.

Jose Acosta with the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday that, with the added help, there are 681 firefighters working to contain the wildfire.

"With light winds, today is a good day for the firefighter, not the fire," said Acosta. "We're looking at sustaining the fire lines between the fire and Markleeville. On the north side we're starting to tamp the fire down and, firefighters are working to set up a better perimeter on the southeast side down toward Wolf Creek."

Acosta said dry lightning in the forecast starting late Thursday is a concern. He said crews are taking advantage of light winds Wednesday to perform controlled brush burns on the far east side of the fire.

"The low wind blowing from the west means they're able to safely do those brush burns, and burn out the area in front of the fire, take away the fuel source, so that it doesn't spread later on in case the wind picks up," said Acosta.

He said there are approximately 12 helicopters, eight air tankers (including two DC-10's available in the area), 19 engines, 10 water tenders and 19 crews assigned to the fire.

Acosta said the fire is burning in hazardous and inaccessible terrain. And, "the vegetation is feeling the stress from more than three years of drought and historically low snowpack in the mountains this past winter."

"Because of the drought there are some tremendously dry fuels, what we call the '100-year variety,'" said Acosta. "Once they start to burn - heavy timber - they continue to burn, and they burn deep down into the ground."

Several campgrounds along Highway 4 to the north end of Markleeville have been evacuated. The Turtle Rock and Indian Creek campgrounds are closed. As a precaution, Markleeville residences have been advised to prepare for an evacuation but no mandatory evacuations are in effect for Markleeville.

"The Forest Service has two new 'short-lift' helicopters for emergency evacuations of personnel or lifting in supplies, and one of those, from the Bridger-Teton National Forest, is here in case we need to remove people from the northern side of the fire," said Acosta.

He said Highways 4 and 89 in the Monitor Pass area are expected to remain closed at least through the weekend.

Acosta said no structures have been burned and protection of cultural and historical sites within and near the fire area is a priority, along with preventing the fire from reaching Markleeville.

The lightning-caused fire started Friday, June 19.

Sign up for ReCap

and never miss the top stories

Delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.

Check out a sample ReCap newsletter.