Two small fires in South Lake Tahoe knocked down |

Two small fires in South Lake Tahoe knocked down

Charles Sizemore
Nevada Appeal News Service
Jim Grant/Nevada Appeal News Service Firefighters respond to a wildland fire on Monday afternoon that started near an illegal campsite.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE – A small fire was started in the woods behind Raley’s on Monday afternoon. Although the exact cause has not been confirmed, the blaze was within feet of an illegal camp littered with cigarette butts and vodka bottles.

Smoke was first noticed by the dispatcher at Harrah’s upon looking out the window, according to Harrah’s security officer Tony Marsico. The dispatcher then alerted surveillance, which was able to confirm that there was in fact a fire burning, and the fire department was called.

“We didn’t see it in the tree tops, but it would plume up, then go down and you couldn’t see it, then it would plume back up,” Marsico said.

The illegal camp sat unoccupied as firefighters put out the last remaining embers and dug a trench around the fire. Poles and an old gutter served as support for the shelter made of blankets and sheets. There was even a makeshift patio, equipped with chairs and a table. Cigarette butts were strewn about the area, along with some empty vodka bottles, soda cans and other trash.

Washington estimated that each year the Forest Service responds to about 20 fires that are started by homeless people living in such camps, making up about 15 percent to 20 percent of the total fires that the Forest Service puts out.

The El Dorado County Sheriff declined to comment on the investigation.

Response to the fire was effective, and the blaze was contained quickly. According to John Washington, U.S. Forest Service fuels battalion chief, the Forest Service responded with six engines, one hand crew, an air tanker, a helicopter and an air attack. The South Lake Tahoe fire department supplied two engines, Lake Valley fire department supplied another three and Douglas County supplied another two.

Meanwhile, Tahoe Douglas firefighters quickly snuffed out a small blaze in the Glenbrook area, which, according to police scanner reports, was within 50 feet of homes. No damage was reported.

Finally, Forest Service crews responded to smoke within the Angora fire burn area at about 5:30 p.m. No damage was reported there either.