Lightning fires threaten Marine housing near Coleville; Highway 395 closed

A collection of lightning-caused fires near Coleville south of Topaz Lake threatened the U.S. Marine Corps housing Friday evening and closed U.S. Highway 395 from the state line south to Bridgeport, Calif.

The Cole Complex Fire also threatened powerlines to Topaz Lake and Coleville.

By 9:30 p.m., crews had the fire 10 percent contained with control expected to take until Tuesday.

The fire was reported at 3:40 p.m. as a collection of four or five fires for a total of 20 acres. Afternoon northeast winds from 15 to 20 mph spread the fire to more than 200 acres in three hours.

Franklin Pemberton, information officer for the Sierra Front and Wildfire Cooperators, said the fires could have been hold overs from Thursday's lightning storms, and that there had been new strikes Friday as well.

"It could be a combination of both," he said. "We are urging the public to use caution along Highway 395 between Holbrook Junction and Coleville. There are a number of emergency vehicles responding to the area and smoke on the highway."

Pemberton said the fire was burning in a mixture of grass, sage and mixed forest of pinion and juniper. Officials watched Friday night as the fire edged toward homes in Topaz, the Topaz Lodge and homes near Holbrook Junction.

"With the dry conditions in that area and the beetle-killed pinion and juniper, fires in this area tend to grow rapidly," Pemberton said.

About 200 firefighters battled the blaze along with eight single-engine air tankers each capable of carrying 800 gallons of water.

"They are very effective," Pemberton said. "They have a quick turn around time."

Other resources included two type II helicopters, 18 wildland fire engines, six structure engines, one water tender, a crew from the Morning Star Hot Shots and three type II hand crews.

An additional 160 personnel had been called in as of Friday night including three type II hand crews, five type I crews and a type II Incident Management Team, with additional resources expected Saturday.


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