The threat of evacuation has been lifted in Markleeville and Grovers Hot Spring Campground, nearly a week after the 17,622-acre Washington Fire started threatening the town.
But even as that threat was lifted, a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Alpine and Douglas counties at 5:25 p.m. Saturday.
As if firefighters didn’t have enough to contend with, heavy rains may accompany the thunderstorms posing the potential risk of flash floods and swollen streams within the fire area, fire spokesman Jose Acosta said.
The lifting of the evacuation advisory was announced Saturday morning by the U.S. Forest Service.
The fire came within two miles of town, burning along a broad front driven by winds.
“Firefighters continue to construct and secure the fireline with hose lays on the eastern perimeter of the Washington Fire while increasing the percent contained throughout the day,” Acosta said. “In addition, crews will begin to improve existing fire line along western perimeter while mopping up hotspots and extinguishing burning material up to 200 feet in from the fire perimeter along the side of the fire nearest to Markleeville. One of the main objectives of fire managers is to keep the fire from spreading toward Markleeville.”
Douglas and Alpine counties are under a fire weather watch for today.
The cost of the fire has reached $6.4 million, with nearly 1,200 people fighting the blaze.
The cost of fighting the 16,490-acre Washington Fire has risen to $5 million, according to a report issued early this morning by the National Interagency Coordination Center.
The fire has burned well outside of its southern perimeter toward Silver Peak and throughout the Wolf Creek Meadows area.
A lack of strong downslope winds, which drove the fire north toward Markleeville and Leviathan Mine have caused it to burn up the mountain.
Firefighters are officially calling it 15 percent contained, but it has been more than 24 hours since most of the fire has shown active burning, including those areas closest to Markleeville.
There is no estimated date for containment or control as of Friday morning.
Fire Public Information Officer Jose Acosta said hand crews have made progress building fire line between the fire and Markleeville.
The number of personnel working the fire has climbed to 951 firefighters, including 27 hand crews, 50 engines and a dozen water tenders. Eleven helicopters and three air tankers are also fighting the fire, Acosta said.
The first of nearly a week’s forecast of thunderstorms are expected to arrive today with hot temperatures, complicating firefighter’s efforts to corral the fire.
While winds will generally be light, outflow winds from a thunderstorm can exceed 50 mph and blow out in all directions, carrying burning brands and embers with them.
There is also the chance that monsoonal moisture will accompany the thunderstorms, which is what brought last summer’s deluges to Carson Valley.
Smoke continues to pool in the Valley, though each day there’s less. At 4 a.m. today the pollution level was at 110, the lowest so far for the week. That’s still unhealthy for sensitive groups.
The air yesterday tended in the moderate range, according to the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection sensor at Ranchos Aspen Park.
Most of the active burning is occurring on the southern flank of the fire near Wolf Creek Meadows in the Carson Iceberg Wilderness.
Markleeville residents remain under an evacuation advisory issued by the Alpine County Sheriff’s Office, but no mandatory evacuation is in effect as of Thursday evening.
About 210 people live in Markleeville, according to the U.S. Census. There are 250 homes in the area that could be threatened.
Highway 89 from Highway 395 over Monitor Pass is closed to the Carson River Resort. Highway 4 is closed from the junction with Highway 89 to the top of Ebbett’s Pass.
Turtle Rock Park and Indian Creek campgrounds are closed.