Despite big blazes, Forest Service eases fire restrictions after wet week

Though two human-caused fires are not yet fully contained in Desolation Wilderness, U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit will lift fire restrictions on National Forest System lands in the basin beginning Friday.

Forest Service officials said recent rain and snow has been enough for them to ease restrictions.

That means allowing campfires again in designated fire rings in some backcountry areas, including Luther Pass, Blackwood Canyon and Watson Lake campgrounds, as well as in the Meiss roadless area, said Lisa Herron, a spokeswoman for the management unit. It also means smoking on National Forest System land is no longer restricted to designated campgrounds, vehicles and buildings, Herron said.

Campfires remain banned year-round in Desolation Wilderness.

Forest Service fire-management officer Kit Bailey said Thursday that the restrictions are being lifted “because we’ve had 21/2 inches of rain in the last week and snow in the high country.”

Cheva Gabor, public affairs and legislative officer with the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said cooler temperatures also contributed to its decision to lift fire restrictions.

“The vegetation is moist, and with the cooler temperatures as well, it isn’t going to burn as easily,” Gabor said. “We think the risk is reduced enough that we can lift the stricter restrictions we enforce during higher-risk seasons.”

In Tahoe National Forest, Supervisor Tom Quinn lifted similar restrictions Tuesday, also because of the recent precipitation, he said.

Referring to two human-caused fires not yet fully contained in Desolation Wilderness, Gabor said, “People still need to use caution, make sure their fires are completely out, and be aware of the ‘stove only with a valid permit’ requirement in wilderness areas such as Desolation.”

“Abandoned campfires are a major cause of wildfires in the basin, including the 2007 Angora fire,” Gabor said. As for cigarettes, she said, “they need to be completely out and disposed of in a proper receptacle.”

A tossed cigarette was responsible for a large fire near the Heavenly gondola, she said.

The King fire, which started in Desolation near Pollock Pines and burned 97,718 acres west of Lake Tahoe, was 95 percent contained Thursday afternoon. Full containment was expected Saturday.

The 20-acre Cascade fire, which started in Desolation near Emerald Bay, was about 90 percent contained Thursday, Gabor said.

More information on backcountry fire regulations, as well as how to obtain a campfire permit, is available from the forest supervisor’s office in South Lake Tahoe at (530) 543-2694. The management unit’s website is