Tamarack Fire quiets down; 54% contained

A man surveys a destroyed home in the Pine Nuts south of Spring Valley on Monday morning.

A man surveys a destroyed home in the Pine Nuts south of Spring Valley on Monday morning.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.


As evacuees make their way to their property to clean up after the Tamarack Fire, the blaze that burned 106 square miles in Alpine and Douglas was relatively quiet, having grown only 2 percent over the previous 24 hours.

Both the Bald Mountain and Hawkins Peak fire cameras showed no flame or smoke plumes on a hazy Tuesday morning.

Hot spots that were previously marching out ahead of the fire perimeter were gone from the maps by Tuesday morning.

More than 1,500 firefighters were able to build a containment line around 54 percent of the fire, focusing on the northern and eastern flanks of the fire, which is where most of the homes are.

On the southern flank, the fire burned into the Washington Fire that threatened Markleeville in 2015.

The fire perimeter hasn’t expanded significantly either south or west since last week, when the brunt of the blaze charged northeast toward Spring Valley and Holbrook, prompting a call for evacuations of the Highway 395 corridor and even 1,600-resident Topaz Ranch Estates.

Douglas and Alpine officials are still surveying the toll from the fire, with an initial estimate of at least two dozen structures, including several homes.

NV Energy reported 30 power poles were destroyed in the fire, which they’ve been replacing since Saturday, with power still out to 124 homes and businesses along the Highway 395 corridor as of Tuesday morning.

Highways 395 and 88 were reopened on Monday morning to through traffic and all Douglas evacuations were lifted by Monday afternoon. Most Alpine County residents of the Markleeville and Woodfords area returned to their homes, while campgrounds and cabins in the Blue Lakes Road were still affected by evacuations.

The Tamarack Fire was first reported July 4 started by lightning from a thunderstorm the previous day. First just a single tree, the fire grew to a quarter-acre on July 10 when fire officials said they were aware of the fire, but felt it posed little danger of spreading.

Almost a week later, on July 16, the fire burst into life, sending a huge smoke plume towering over the Sierra as winds drove it down the canyon toward Markleeville. Firefighters were able to keep the fire out of the town, but it raged out of control for days spreading to Woodfords where it burned over Turtle Rock Park.

After burning for five days, the fire crossed into Nevada on July 21 and crested the ridge into Double Spring Flat, finding new fuels in the piñon forest to the southwest of Highway 395.

Highway 395 was closed that evening and residents advised to evacuate as the flames marched closer to homes.

An evacuation advisory had spread through Topaz Ranch Estates as the shelter at the community center closed and residents were directed to Smith Valley High School.

Douglas County commissioners and the governors of both Nevada and California declared a state of emergency over the fire area.


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