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Progress on Alpine County fire but possible lightning storms could hold danger

Firefighters hope that they can continue Wednesday to corral the forest fire burning in Alpine County before possible stormy conditions arrive later in the week.

“If we can get good containment levels before the storms come in we can prevent further growth,” said Denise Alonzo, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.

The fire, which began on Friday when lightning set timber country ablaze near the county seat of Markleeville, has burned 16,544 acres. That is about the same amount of acreage reported 24 hours earlier, indicating that fire crews have been successful in stemming the march of the wildland blaze.

It was also reported on Wednesday that crews had gained about 5 percent containment on what is tabbed the Washington fire.

“The incident commander said that Saturday and Sunday the fire had the advantage,” said Alonzo. “Today we hope that the firefighters have the advantage.”

Firefighters were able to cut lines to stop the fire’s progress. Some crews were camping out all night. Much of the blaze in remote back-country was hard to get to as it burned not along a wide front but in what is described as finger-like growth.

It will take time for firefighters to get in along edges of the fire and put in containment line. However, with more firefighters Wednesday, it is hoped that more lines can be dug to stop the spread of the flames.

Winds are expected to be fairly mild again on Wednesday, but firefighters are concerned about the weather forecast for Thursday and Friday when winds could increase with possible storms.

“We are worried that there is another storm coming that could have additional lightning,” said Alonzo. “So we are trying to attack it pretty hard today so that we can see some of that containment increased.”

The town of Markleeville has not been evacuated. The mountain hamlet of 200 residents was not in the path of the fire Wednesday morning.

“The town is still three miles from the fire’s edge,” said Alonzo. “We are hoping we can continue to prevent the growth in that direction. We will see how the day goes.”

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews

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