Highway Fire flares to 500 acres | TheUnion.com

Highway Fire flares to 500 acres

The Highway Fire near Truckee grew to 500 acres late this afternoon and a containment time is still not in sight.

However, traffic was moving on Interstate 80 next to the blaze just west of the Nevada

state line, according to Franklin Pemberton of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Firefighters set back fires north of I-80 adjacent to the westbound lanes to stop the blaze from jumping the freeway, he said.

Pembertson said the fire was only at 20 percent containment. No firefighters have been injured despite the rolling rocks and logs they have had to dodge on steep terrain, and no buildings were threatened.

“All the rolling debris has been the big challenge,” Pemberton said. “It’s almost straight up and down in there.

“It’s stubborn and into the high timber now,” Pemberton said at 4 p.m. “I’m watching copter after copter working it,” with water drops.

A special fire management team from Utah was brought in to run the blaze battle, Pemberton said. The team has the authority to order more equipment and personnel to the fire from around the country than the Humboldt-Toiyabe forest does.

Normally the fire season along the California-Nevada line starts in June and July when it’s easier to get fire fighting reinforcements from neighboring states, Pemberton said. But many of those crews are not on line yet because of later fire seasons in their regions.

Another problem has been drivers slowing down on I-80 to take pictures of the blaze with their cell phones, Pemberton said. “We’re asking people to be careful with that.”

Investigators are still trying to find the exact cause of the blaze which started about 1:30 p.m. Monday about 500 feet off the freeway.

“It was human-caused, but we’re not sure if it was accidental or arson,” Pemberton said. “There’s a lot of smoke blowing into Lake Tahoe and Truckee, but traffic’s moving.”

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