Firefighters wielding chainsaws and shovels lassoed, roped and tied a five-acre fire Wednesday that closed Kingsbury Grade for five hours.
Winds estimated at 50 mph pushed the fire north and downslope prompting East Fork Fire District officials to implement the county’s emergency plan not long after the fire was reported at 3 p.m.
High winds also prevented helicopters or fire tankers from flying over the fire, which was burning in sagebrush, grasses and scattered pine trees in extremely steep, rocky terrain.
The number of firefighters working the blaze grew far faster than the fire, shooting from 35 at 5 p.m. to the final tally of 200 by 7:30 p.m., according to Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch spokesman Mark Struble.
Kingsbury Grade reopened at 7:45 p.m., and Struble reported that the fire was contained by 8 p.m. with a hose line around it. Full containment was reported at 10:15 a.m. Thursday.
One firefighter was treated at the scene of the fire for heat exhaustion, according to Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Pat Brooks.
Three dozen firefighters, consisting of a hand crew and four engines, remained to extinguish the fire on Thursday, as some vegetation continued to smolder in the interior.
Struble said the fire started on private property and burned onto land in the U.S. Forest Service’s Carson Ranger District.
East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini said high winds made the fire behavior erratic, but that higher than expected humidity aided firefighters in getting the blaze under control.
Embers from fire ignited a second quarter-acre spot fire above the main body.
Firefighters from East Fork and the U.S. Forest Service were joined by Douglas Fire, BLM, NDF and Lake Valley volunteers.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but lightning storms on Sunday and Monday may have provided the spark that ignited the blaze.
While the Sierra suffered through two dry winters in a row, a damp May delayed fire season slightly, increasing fuel moisture in the Sierra.
According to the National Weather Service, .72 inches of rain fell in Minden, or 157 percent of average for the month. Markleeville received 1.53 inches of moisture, or 165 percent of average.
A slightly damper, cooler spring reduced the chance for wildfires so far this year. But at best, the early May moisture just delayed the potential for wildfires into June, fire officials said.
The site of the King fire is not far from where a 72-acre fuels reduction project is scheduled to take place in Haines Canyon, at the top of Daggett Creek.
The project is up for a $237,000 grant from round 13 of the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act and would thin trees and brush around the Kingsbury General Improvement District maintenance yard and Heavenly Ski Resort, as well as the property of three private landowners.
Last year’s fires cost the East Fork Fire District $1.2 million to fight.
Most of the fires over the last two years occurred in the Pine Nuts, and cost $9.2 million to extinguish.
The last major fire to result in the loss of homes in the Carson Range of the Sierra was the Autumn Hills fire in 1996, which consumed four homes, charred 3,400 acres of land and cost $2.5 million to fight.