Lake Tahoe wildfire burns, forces evacuations and closures

  • Forced evacuations were ordered for more than half a dozen parishes near Markleeville.
  • Forest fires that burned in 13 states had burned more than 1,800 square miles.
  • Forest fires in the west will be fueled by intense heat waves this summer.

Wildfire near Lake Tahoe, causing hundreds to flee, exploded over 30 square miles on Sunday, one of more than 80 major fires that raged in the hot, drought-stricken west, firefighters said.

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest authorities issued evacuation orders for more than half a dozen communities and two campsites near tiny Markleeville, California, a town of fewer than 200 people about 35 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe. The Tamarack fire, which started two weeks ago, forced the closure of a motorway and some smaller roads.

Forest fires that burned 13 states on Sunday burned more than 1,800 square miles from Alaska to California and from Minnesota to New Mexico. Almost 20,000 firefighters were on duty to keep the flames at bay.

Among the other major fires, the Bootleg Fire consumed more than 460 square miles and destroyed at least 67 homes in southern Oregon. The fire, which was 22% contained, forced 2,000 people to evacuate and threatened 5,000 buildings.

The Beckwourth Complex fire in California near the Nevada border burned more than 160 square miles and was more than 70% contained.

In Nevada, more than 500 firefighters fighting the Tamarack fire were warned with a red flag, meaning warm temperatures, very low humidity, and high winds have conspired to increase the risk.

Wildfire burns near the site of the deadliest US blaze near Paradise, California

“Firefighters will continue to actively suppress the fire where they can safely do so,” said fire department managers in an update. “The crews will concentrate on protecting life and property by means of point protection of structures and, if possible, installing containment lines.”

The fire was so intense that a bike race called “Death Ride” couldn’t take any chances.

“We are very sad to announce that tomorrow’s Death Ride has been canceled due to the rapidly growing Tamarack fire,” said the race organizers on their website. “Please pray for the Markleeville Ward and first responders from several agencies who are working to contain the fire.”

Residents, budding cyclists and spectators had to flee. Paul Burgess, who had pulled up from Los Angeles to take the ride, said most of the cyclists he met were grateful to avoid the risk of fire.

“You just said it was going to work,” said Burgess. “It’s part of climate change to some extent, it’s part of many fuels that don’t burn, the humidity is low, the fuel humidity is low, and … across the state, many parts are like a tinderbox.”

Kelli Pennington and her family were camping near town on Friday when they were told to leave.

“It went so quickly,” said Pennington. “We left our tents, hammocks and some groceries, but we got most of our things, pushed our two children into the car and left.”

Contribution: The Associated Press

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