Mound House fire expected to be contained today
A human-caused fire in Mound House, which began Wednesday and grew to 429 acres thanks to squirrely afternoon winds, was 80 percent contained by Thursday and is expected to be controlled by today, according to fire officials.
The Industrial fire, ignited by a spark kicked up from a dozer near a gravel pit off Industrial Parkway in Mound House, threatened 10 homes and 15 businesses, said Fire Information Officer Elayn Briggs with Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch.
Briggs said in addition to the rocky terrain, firefighters had to contend with hidden mine shafts and the fear that dynamite stored in various shacks in the area could be ignited by the rapidly moving blaze.
“It went from four or five acres, to 400 acres pretty quickly,” she said.
Fire crews protected structures throughout the night, and the hillside that glowed frighteningly red on Wednesday, offered just puffs of half-hearted smoke Thursday morning.
The initial estimate of more than 800 acres of wildland burned was corrected Thursday after mapping was done.
Briggs said of the 25 structures that were at risk, several had defensible space.
“But we wish more people would have defensible space,” she said.
Just as crews were being released from the Industrial fire, they were called to a fire on Kingsbury Grade believed to have been caused by a downed power line.
Upwards of 50 firefighters and two helicopters – repeatedly dropping 240 gallon buckets of water – had the approximately two-acre fire surrounded by 2 p.m., according to Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District Battalion Chief, Mark Novak.
Firefighters were on the scene within 20 minutes off the first 911 call, according to Sheila Stanton, who called the emergency number at about 11:45 a.m.
Stanton initially thought a buzzing noise outside of her house was nearby neighbors, but upon further investigation, she realized a small fire was burning ground cover under power lines within 200 yards of her driveway.
She described the initial sight of the fire as similar to fireworks shooting up from the ground.
“I’m so glad I was home. Fire is our biggest fear up here,” said Stanton as she surveyed a front yard full of large trees and covered by dry pine needles.
Although voluntary evacuation orders were issued to residents of surrounding homes, many residents anxiously watched the fire, waiting for a mandatory evacuation order that was never needed.
“I’m glad they jumped right on it,” said Neal Pierce, a neighborhood resident who observed the fire from his driveway Thursday. “Fortunately it’s not a windy day.”
Sierra Pacific Power Co. workers were on hand soon after firefighters, checking the power lines running through the Kingsbury neighborhood and investigating the cause of the fire.
“A wire did come down, it’s just hard to say how,” said Milan Dohnaski, a troubleman for Sierra Pacific, at the scene.
No power outages were reported due to the downed transmission line, which brings power into the Lake Tahoe Basin, according Faye Anderson, spokeswoman for Sierra Pacific.
Thursday was a busy start to what is expected to be a long fire season.
U.S. Forest Service Fire Management Officer Kit Bailey was called off the scene at Kingsbury at about 2 p.m. to coordinate efforts at a small fire burning near Kings Beach.
The Kings Beach fire was human-caused and burned less than one-quarter of an acre of Forest Service land near Highway 267, according to Rex Norman, Forest Service spokesman.
Mark Struble, fire information officer with Sierra Front, said lightning storms are forecasted through Sunday, keeping firefighters on edge.
“We are watching all the radar and everything else. There are some really big (storm) cells out there, so we just have to rest and retool from whatever fires we get and have our people ready to go,” he said.
Fifteen of more than 100 nationwide lightning sensors, keep track of lightning activity in the region. Struble said the sensors help fire crews pinpoint the exact location of areas under heavy assault, such as the Peterson region, which received 11 lightning strikes on Wednesday.
“What the information does is it just allows us to save time and in the fire business saved time means saved acreage and saved money. It’s just a tool that lets us get out there and knock the fires down when they are small.”
• Nevada Appeal News Service reporter Adam Jensen contributed to this report.
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