Lake Tahoe Wildfire Prompts Evacuations

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A wildfire that has been burning for two weeks just south of Lake Tahoe in California quickly expanded on over the weekend, jumping a highway and prompting a wave of evacuations and event cancellations.

It was one of several blazes around the state that have strained crews and threatened property.

The Tamarack Fire, which started with a lightning strike on July 4, was more than 18,000 acres large and zero percent contained as of late Sunday night, fire officials said. Heavy smoke grounded all firefighting aircraft on Sunday as the blaze spread, they said.

Several surrounding communities, including Markleeville, Grover Hot Springs, Shay Creek and others near the Nevada border, were under evacuation orders. A portion of Highway 89 was closed and a section of the Pacific Crest Trail was also closed.

The fire forced the cancellation of this year’s Death Ride, a 103-mile extreme cycling event that would have had its 40th anniversary this weekend. The Associated Press reported that the fire left bikers and spectators racing to evacuate on Saturday.

Nearly 800 fire and emergency personnel were assigned to that wildfire, according to officials from the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest. A red flag warning, indicating conditions were ripe for fires, was in place through Monday morning.

Farther north, the Beckwourth Complex in Plumas County continued to spread over the weekend, reaching more than 100,000 acres by late Sunday night.

That fire, comprising the Dotta Fire, which lightning sparked on June 30, and the Sugar Fire, which started July 2 also by lightning, is 82 percent contained. More than 2,000 personnel were assigned to that fire.

In Butte County, Calif., the Dixie Fire, has grown to more than 18,000 acres since it started last week, according to the stage agency Cal Fire. Officials said the fire was 15 percent contained, had injured one person and was burning in remote areas of steep terrain, with limited access. Evacuations orders were in place for parts of Butte and Plumas Counties.

Tony Brownell, a fire operation section chief, said in a news conference on Sunday that there were many challenges facing crews in getting the Dixie Fire under control.

“We will get around this thing,” he said. “We fight a fire aggressively, but we’re not going to hurt anybody. We don’t want the public to get hurt and we don’t want the firefighters to get hurt.”

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