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Thousands more flee Tahoe blaze

Wed., June 27, 2007, midnight

MEYERS, Calif. – Efforts to tame a raging wildfire that has destroyed some 200 homes near Lake Tahoe suffered a setback Tuesday when a backfire set by firefighters to control the blaze jumped a fireline, forcing a new round of evacuations, authorities said.

Firefighters were working to protect a development outside South Lake Tahoe when the blaze expanded, prompting the evacuation of a 300-home subdivision.

Authorities also issued a voluntary evacuation order for a pricey waterfront subdivision on the lake, officials said. About 2,000 people evacuated.

“It’s a fairly populated area,” said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Tim Evans. “That certainly is not good news for our firefighting efforts here.”

The fire started Sunday near the south end of Lake Tahoe. By Tuesday afternoon, the blaze had consumed more than 2,700 acres – about 4.2 square miles – and was about 40 percent contained, fire officials said.

Officials said the blaze jumped the fireline because firefighters set a backfire as part of their efforts to keep the main blaze from reaching more houses. When the wind picked up, embers crossed the fireline. Previously, firefighters had been able to contain the small spot fires that erupted.

The blaze moved so quickly that two firefighters were forced to deploy the emergency shelters firefighters carry to protect themselves during burnovers as a last resort, said Chuck Dickson, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman. They managed to walk away uninjured, he said.


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