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On July 4, lightning started a small blaze in the forest near Markleeville, CA. Markleeville is the county seat for Alpine County, thankfully still the least populated county in California. At the time of the initial fire, the US Forest Service decided to let the fire burn itself out when it had consumed about an acre more than a week ago. Unfortunately, given the dry conditions, the fire is now raging some two weeks after the initial lightning strike and, at last count, has consumed some 21,000 acres with 0% containment. At least three structures have burned down to their foundations, more are likely to burn if containment cannot be achieved. The small towns of Woodfords and Markleeville are in the crosshairs. The prevailing winds blow from west to east through the Carson Canyon which because of its high cliffs and ridges on the canyon’s north and south side act more or less can act as a wind tunnel, so there is a possibility that if the flames reach up to the Woodfords area, the winds will push the fire further eastward, possibly down into the flatter grasslands and pastures just south of Gardnerville and Minden, NV.
The story caught my attention today and my brothers and I have a particular interest in it. Our parents owned a small home just north of Markleeville on Crystal Springs Road perched and a slope near the Carson River that runs parallel to a stretch of Highway 88 which connects to Highway 89 a route to Lake Tahoe west of Woodfords and the route down into the aforementioned Gardnerville/Minden area in Nevada, cattle grazing country that stretches out in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada range, the same mountains that ring Lake Tahoe.
My brother, Don, related the circumstances around an earlier fire in the same general area shortly after our parents retired to live in the Woodfords house in the late 1980s in responding to my email about this latest fire:
Exactly what happened when the folks lived there. Someone was using a backhoe without a spark arrester, starts small fire. Local volunteers show up, start working the fire. Forest Service shows up, says “We got this, go home.” Next thing, it’s out of control.
The fire burned up to the back door of the next downriver home, skipped off downstream. I seem to remember over thirty homes destroyed.
Mom and Dad and I spent a night in Gardnerville. I was allowed to spend the next night at the house, folks came up the following day. And that had a lot to do with the decision to leave the mountains and move to Tucson.
There is a thunderstorm in the forecast for the area, so perhaps that will help to dampen a lot of the fire if a prolonged downpour ensues. Of course, a thunderstorm could also mean a few more lightning strikes…that perhaps the US Forest Service may also dismiss.Published in