Wildfire near Lake Tahoe inches toward mountain town

California’s sustained drought continued to take its toll Wednesday as wildfires chewed through parched trees and vegetation from Shasta to San Bernardino counties.

The spread of the Lake fire burning in the San Bernardino National Forest slowed, the U.S. Forest Service reported. The blaze has burned 18,875 acres and is 38% contained, officials said.

It started a week ago south of Highway 38 and has kept a large stretch of the road closed through the mountains as flames crawled through terrain inaccessible by foot. Firefighters have had to rely on helicopters dropping flame retardant for some swaths of forest as they built defenses to cut off the fire’s path.

Farther north near Lake Tahoe, the Washington fire has burned 16,544 acres and is 5% contained, the Forest Service said. It is burning through timber and vegetation that is “feeling the stress from over three years [of] cumulative drought and historically low snowpack,” officials said on the fire’s incident page.

Authorities said firefighters’ main objective was to keep the blaze away from Markleeville three miles to the north. Highways 4 and 89 are closed in the area, the Forest Service said.

In Southern California, two fires were nearing full containment. The River fire in Ventura County flared up twice Tuesday, county firefighters said, but containment grew to 80%. The blaze was caused by humans and has burned 164 acres, said department spokesman Mike Lindbery.

In San Luis Obispo County, the Park Hill fire, which has burned 1,800 acres and destroyed eight homes, was 95% contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. Investigators said a vehicle started the blaze.

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