Hundreds of firefighters on Wednesday were struggling to contain a massive blaze that had broken out last week near the Alpine County town of Markleeville, California, just southeast of Lake Tahoe.
The Washington Fire has burned roughly 16,500 acres, or 26 square miles, and was just five percent contained as of Wednesday morning, according to state fire officials. Five hundred firefighters are working to ensure that the blaze, now reportedly just a mile and a half outside of the county seat of Markleeville, does not reach the popular tourist destination and town of about 200 residents.
The fire is believed to have started with a lightning strike on Friday afternoon. By Sunday, strong winds and low humidity fed the blaze, which had burned 6,500 acres and shut down two major highways — Highway 89 across Monitor Pass and Highway 4 across Ebbetts Pass — by Sunday night, KQED reported. Nearby campgrounds were evacuated, and residents of Markleeville were reportedly told they might have to leave.
Firefighters had managed ten percent containment of the blaze early Monday, but strong winds continued to push the fire toward Markleeville. Firefighters revised their containment estimate down to zero percent after the fire had reportedly doubled in size by late Monday night.
By early Wednesday afternoon, firefighters had gotten containment back up to five percent, according to officials. Officials said 12 helicopters, 8 air tankers, 19 engines, 10 water tenders, and 19 crews, making up 681 personnel, were working to battle the blaze on Wednesday.
One firefighter was removed from the fireline and treated for a minor heat-related injury.
Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 firefighters were working to battle the Lake Fire that erupted in the San Bernardino Mountains south of Big Bear last week. As of Wednesday morning, the fire had burned 18,875 acres, or 29.5 square miles, and was 38 percent contained, according to The Press-Enterprise.
Residents in Barton Flats and several surrounding communities were forced to evacuate due to safety concerns.