Gap fire traffic clogging Carson |

Gap fire traffic clogging Carson

staff and news service
Photo by Cathleen AllisonWith Highway 80 still closed because of the Emigrant Gap fire, traffic on Highway 50 West at the bottom of Spooner Summit was extremely heavy coming into Carson City on Tuesday afternoon.

With Interstate 80 closed by a wildfire at Emigrant Gap, traffic clogged Carson City on Tuesday as motorists hunted alternate routes across the Sierra Nevada.

Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Magruder confirmed traffic from California to Reno is being routed to Highway 50 and then along Highway 395.

Magruder had a front row seat for the amount of traffic caused by the Gap fire’s closure of I-80.

“I’m sitting here waiting – back a couple of miles at the Mount Rose light,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “There is definitely a lot more traffic.”

Roads remained closed and homes were evacuated during the third day of the fire, which had burned more than 1,600 acres.

As of Tuesday afternoon, eastbound traffic on I-80 was being held at Applegate and westbound traffic was diverted to highways 20 and 49, the California Highway Patrol reported.

On Monday, the fire forced evacuations for all campgrounds and recreational areas at Lake Spaulding, Marin Sierra Boy Scout Camp, Donner Mine Camp and Two structures, including one home, were destroyed in the fire.

Placer County residents in Yuba Gap, Snowflower Camp, Lake Valley Reservoir and Emigrant Gap in Carpenter Flat were also evacuated, although Carpenter Flat residents living adjacent to I-80 were given the clear to return home Tuesday morning, said Kim Jackson, fire information officer.

The Forest Service is now estimating total containment of the fire by Friday, moved up from Monday’s estimated containment date of Aug. 20.

“Yesterday the fire was moving a half a mile per hour with 200- to 300-foot flame lengths,” Jackson said, adding the fire hadn’t moved much Tuesday morning, although the wind conditions were expected to increase and switch directions later in the day.

The exact cause of the fire is still undetermined, Jackson said, but investigators suspect an abandoned campfire in an area not designated for camping.

As of Tuesday morning, battling the blaze were 1,115 firefighters, 77 engines, nine water tenders, five helicopters, eight planes, 34 hand crews and eight bulldozers. An additional helicopter was also on the way from Texas, Jackson said.

The estimated cost of the fire so far is $1.5 million. The total cost of containing the Gap fire may be more than $8 million, fire officals said.

Meanwhile, crews in northern Nevada claimed victory over the 82,000-acre Sheep fire and turned their attention toward the nearby Coyote fire, which was 10 percent contained at 7,200 acres.

More than 205,000 acres have burned in Nevada since late last week, most of it grassland. A pall of smoke obscured the mountains north of I-80 along a 50-mile stretch between Battle Mountain and Winnemucca.

Four separate fires were burning throughout Northern California.

More than 850 firefighters and support personnel fought a range fire east of Ravendale, Calif., about 50 miles north of Susanville, that had grown to 62,900 acres. The Observation fire was 55 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, said Jeff Fontana, a spokesman for the Susanville Interagency Fire Center. He predicted full containment by Thursday.

Across the West, 10,320 firefighters struggled to contain 271 blazes that had burned through more than 110,000 acres over the past day, said the National Interagency Coordination Center in Boise, Idaho.

In addition to Nevada and California, wildfires burned in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Texas and Oklahoma.