Washington Fire Chars Over 14,000 Acres Near Markleeville

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MARKLEEVILLE --

Fueled by wind and dry vegetation, flames are quickly spreading in in the Sierra.

In three days, the Washington Fire has charred over 14,942 acres of forest land south of South Lake Tahoe.

"It's sad because you see the glow of the fire through the cloud, the smoke cloud," said tourist Debbie Bergantz.

Four miles away, massive plumes of smoke and fire are visible from the small town of Markleeville.

On her visit from the Bay Area, Bergantz is seeing a wildfire up close for the first time.

"You feel mother nature, you feel the power of fire and how devastating it can be. I mean, a little helicopter or plane is flying above trying to drop water on it and it's so huge," Bergantz said.

Firefighters are working from the air and the ground to get a handle on the fast-moving flames. The U.S. Forest Service says the fire was sparked by a lightning strike.

Farther south, the smoke plume is visible from Sorensen's Resort, where visitors on the patio were concerned about their view.

"There's plenty of trees here, and I know the wind direction can change very quickly, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed, praying, drinking beer, hoping that helps," said Mark Harpenau, a tourist from Hawaii.

As visitors hope for the best, firefighters work to protect nearby communities and campsites.

Several agencies from both California and Nevada are working together to get a handle on the fire.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, five homes and 15 historic cabins are threatened by the fire.

Residents in Markleeville were not facing mandatory evacuations Monday.