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article imageRoaring wildfire threatens historic California mining town

By Nathan Salant     Jun 24, 2015 in Environment
Markleeville - California and Nevada firefighters battling a wind-fanned wildfire in the Sierra Nevada mountains conceded Tuesday that the blaze had outpaced containment efforts and was out of control.
The Washington Fire was burning Tuesday across 16,500 acres of dry forest and threatening the historic silver boom-era town of Markleeville, Calif., which got its post office in 1863.
The fire, which appeared to be 10 percent contained on Monday, roared back to full unpredictability on Tuesday despite the efforts of 500 firefighters aided by 11 helicopters and eight planes, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
Several campgrounds along State Highway 4 have been closed, as has Highway 89 in the vicinity of Monitor Pass.
All 200 residents of Markleeville have been advised to prepare for evacuation, the newspaper said.
The fire is still 10 miles south of the town but could advance quickly in the brittle forest, bone dry after years of drought.
California fire officials have been warning of the possibility of a catastrophic wildfire season this year, the newspaper said.
The Washington Fire started Friday night after a lightning strike on the California side of the state border, officials said, and forest is burning in both states.
Markleeville, now mostly a tourist town serving Grover Hot Springs, once was a center of silver-mining activity in the 1860s, 10 years after the Gold Rush.
Mining of the Comstock Lode led to many advances in the mining and other industries, including the discovery of the Washoe process of separating ore from rock and the development of steel cable rope that drove the first public transportation systems in the west.
Markleeville is the seat of California's Alpine County.
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