(CNN)A massive wildfire raging out of control in the rugged mountains straddling the California-Nevada border, tearing through tens of thousands of acres was initially determined by US Forest Service officials to not be a threat and allowed to burn.
The lightning-sparked Tamarack Fire, first discovered on July 4 in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, was initially confined to a single tree burning on a ridgetop “with sparse fuels and natural barriers to contain it,” according to the Forest Service, which posted a video of the small smoldering fire in a Facebook post.Hundreds are still under evacuation orders as the nation's largest wildfire chars more than 400,000 acres“The tactical management decision is not to insert fire crews due to safety concerns, however, this is not an unresponsive approach,” the Forest Service said in a July 10 Facebook post along with the video. “Smoke might be visible to Pacific Crest Trail hikers but the .25 acre fire is surrounded by granite rocks, a small lake and sparse fuels.”Despite the Forest Service’s statement, which assured that the fire “poses no threat to the public, infrastructure or resource values,” the wildfire has since gone on to scorch 58,417 acres and at least 10 structures in California and Nevada.As of Friday afternoon, it was only 4% contained, with more than a thousand firefighting personnel on scene.Read MoreThe decision to not initially put out the fire has outraged lawmakers in California and Nevada.In a letter to Forest Service Chief Vickie Christiansen dated Tuesday, California Rep. Tom McClintock, who represents the rugged Sierra Nevada region where the fire was sparked, demanded to know “why there was a lack of suppression action to combat the Tamarack Fire that began on July 4, 2021 until after July 10, 2021,” according to a statement from his office. Photos: Wildfires raging in the West Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestPeople stand behind the fire line as the flames spread through dry grasses at the Steptoe Canyon Fire on Thursday, July 22, in Colton, Washington.Hide Caption 1 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestPlumes of smoke from the Dixie Fire rise above the Plumas National Forest near the Pacific Gas and Electric Rock Creek Power House on Wednesday, July 21.Hide Caption 2 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters walk near a wildfire in Topanga, California, on Monday, July 19.Hide Caption 3 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighter does mop-up work in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, which has been struggling with the Bootleg Fire in Oregon.Hide Caption 4 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA car is charred by the Bootleg Fire along a mountain road near Bly, Oregon.Hide Caption 5 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestNicolas Bey, 11, hugs his father, Sayyid, near a donated trailer they are using after their home was burned in the Bootleg Fire near Beatty, Oregon.Hide Caption 6 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters extinguish hot spots in an area affected by the Bootleg Fire near Bly, Oregon.Hide Caption 7 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA bear cub clings to a tree after being spotted by a safety officer at the Bootleg Fire in Oregon on Sunday, July 18. Hide Caption 8 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters work to protect Markleeville, California, on Saturday, July 17. The Tamarack Fire has burned more than 50,000 acres and was 4% contained on July 22. It was started by a lightning strike. Hide Caption 9 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestThe Tamarack Fire burns in Markleeville, California, near the Nevada border, on July 17.Hide Caption 10 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA member of the Northwest Incident Management Team 12 holds a map of the Chuweah Creek Fire as wildfires devastated Nespelem, Washington, on Friday, July 16.Hide Caption 11 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA cloud from the Bootleg Fire drifts into the air near Bly, Oregon, on July 16.Hide Caption 12 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters spray water from the Union Pacific Railroad’s fire train while battling the Dixie Fire in California’s Plumas National Forest on July 16.Hide Caption 13 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestHorses climb a hillside that was burned by the Chuweah Creek Fire in eastern Washington.Hide Caption 14 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFire from the Bootleg Fire illuminates smoke near Bly, Oregon, on the night of July 16.Hide Caption 15 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighter battles the Bootleg Fire in the Fremont-Winema National Forest, along the Oregon and California border, on July 15.Hide Caption 16 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestA firefighting aircraft drops flame retardant on the Bootleg Fire in Bly, Oregon, on July 15.Hide Caption 17 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters dig away at hot spots underneath stumps and brush after flames from the Snake River Complex Fire swept through the area south of Lewiston, Idaho, on July 15.Hide Caption 18 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestBurned cars sit outside a home that was destroyed by the Chuweah Creek Fire in Nespelem, Washington.Hide Caption 19 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestEvacuee Dee McCarley hugs her cat Bunny at a Red Cross center in Klamath Falls, Oregon, on July 14.Hide Caption 20 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestAn airplane drops fire retardant on the Chuweah Creek Fire in Washington on July 14.Hide Caption 21 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestOperations Section Chief Bert Thayer examines a map of the Bootleg Fire in Chiloquin, Oregon, on July 13.Hide Caption 22 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFire consumes a home as the Sugar Fire, part of the Beckwourth Complex Fire, tears through Doyle, California, on July 10. It’s the second time in less than a year that the small town has been ravaged by a wildfire.Hide Caption 23 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestMen hug a member of the Red Cross at a Bootleg Fire evacuation center in Klamath Falls, Oregon.Hide Caption 24 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestEmbers blow across a field as the Sugar Fire burns in Doyle, California, on July 9.Hide Caption 25 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestFirefighters monitor the Sugar Fire in Doyle, California, on July 9.Hide Caption 26 of 27 Photos: Wildfires raging in the WestIn this long-exposure photograph, taken early on July 2, flames surround a drought-stricken Shasta Lake during the Salt Fire in Lakehead, California.Hide Caption 27 of 27“Given the number of wildfires and their increasing size coupled with severe fire danger conditions throughout the West, I recommend that you immediately reevaluate current US Forest Service direction that allows wildfires to burn and instruct all Regional Foresters that all wildfires should be suppressed as soon as possible,” said McClintock in the letter.The Forest Service defended its decision to not initially douse the fire, saying in a statement “the steep, rugged, and remote terrain presented challenges to safely suppress this wilderness fire” and added that resources were limited and had to be assigned to higher-priority fires, like the East Fork Fire.”The initial suppression strategy stemmed from the need to prioritize resources for wildfires that posed immediate threats to communities, as well mitigating risks to our firefighter safety in comparison to the threats from the fire at that time,” the Forest Service said.Growing fire crosses state lineInstead, the Tamarack Fire was monitored by air and fire cameras, the Forest Service said, until July 16 when the still-small fire was fanned by powerful winds and low humidity, causing it to rapidly spread.They dodged flames pushed by 30 mph winds. Crews fighting the Bootleg Fire are still trying to tame itOn Tuesday, the growing blaze crossed the state line and into Douglas County, Nevada.Nevada state Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, who represents that district, tweeted his incredulity.“Firefighters doing everything they can to stop this monster. Still can’t believe the USFS and Cal Fire let it grow from ¼ acre when it was first discovered,” he wrote Thursday. Like McClintock, Wheeler wants to know why the fire was allowed to burn and is requesting an investigation by the state attorney general.Wheeler told CNN Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford “received the letter and will look into it.”Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak declared an emergency in Douglas County on Friday, freeing up more resources to fight the blaze.”Now, more than ever we must stand united and use all our available resources to combat this growing threat in order to help our fellow Nevadans receive the aid they need,” Sisolak said in a written statement.California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom also proclaimed a state of emergency in Alpine County on Friday due to the fire.
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