Brush Fire Battle

By: STAFF
By: STAFF

Hampered by high temperatures and erratic winds, firefighters were battling a Sierra wildfire on Monday that tripled in size overnight to nearly 1,000 acres in rugged terrain with heavy timber about 15 miles northwest of Reno.

In northeast Nevada, U.S. Interstate 80 was reopened near Elko
after it was forced closed by a pair of wildfires Sunday night, but
one of those had grown to 5,000 acres east of Elko and the other to
about 10,000 acres west of Elko near the mining town of Carlin.

Three single-engine air tankers and a helicopter were aiding
about 200 firefighters at the lightning-sparked fire northwest of
Reno and west of the California-Nevada line, where fire crews were
bracing for another round of thunderstorms packing lightning into
Monday evening.

The fire was burning out of control with no projection of when
it would be contained. At least two heavy air tankers along with
additional equipment and hand crews were on order Monday afternoon,
fire officials said.

"Those high and erratic winds sure played havoc with us last
night," Franklin Pemberton, a spokesman for the Sierra Front
Interagency Fire Center, said Monday.

"The primary focus at this point is to keep air resources in
the air as long as we can, hit it hard and hit it fast and try to
get it out as fast as we can because we are expecting new (fire)
starts this afternoon," he said.

High temperatures were forecast in the mid-90s to upper 90s
Monday after reaching a record 102 degrees in Reno on Sunday, when
the fire north of Reno and five miles west of Bordertown, Nev.,
started about 5:30 p.m. and sent a huge plume of smoke over the
area visible from nearly 50 miles away.

It burned more than 100 acres in the first two hours and grew to
350 acres before midnight, but was estimated at 950 acres by midday
Monday.

"The potential for the fire spreading is high," Sierra Front
spokesman Tom Crawford said in a statement Monday afternoon.

The fire burned within one-quarter mile of homes in the area,
but none was considered immediately threatened, Pemberton said.

In northeast Nevada, two brush fires that temporarily shut down
portions of Interstate 80 on Sunday night near Elko - about 300
miles east of Reno - continued to burn out of control Monday, said
Mike Brown, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management.

I-80 reopened in both areas on Monday morning. But a 5,000-acre
fire near the remote ranching community of Elburz east of Elko was
5 percent contained, while a 10,000-acre blaze near the mining town
of Carlin west of Elko was 10 percent contained, Brown said.

No structures have been damaged and no injuries were reported.

The Carlin fire had threatened a state fire training academy
Sunday night, but it was uncertain how close the blaze was to it
Monday, Brown said. Fire engines and other equipment were put in
place to protect the facility.

The Elburz blaze forced the evacuation of at least one ranch on
Monday and continued to pose a threat to an undetermined number of
other homes, Brown said.

"They're both tough battles," Brown said. "We're seeing fire
behavior that we typically don't see until August, largely because
of a dense fuel load. It's just a giant tinderbox.

"The weather doesn't look good for today, with more dry
lightning forecast. We're just trying to get as many resources here
as we can," he said Monday.

About 100 miles north of Reno, two other wildfires that began
Sunday also continued to burn out of control.

Fire officials offered no prediction on when they would be able
to contain a 1,000-acre blaze near Gerlach or a 150-acre fire near
Bordertown.

Firefighters reported better luck in their battle against a
6,841-acre fire in the barren hills about 20 miles east of Reno.

Fire officials said the brush fire was 80 percent contained and
was expected to be extinguished by 6 p.m. Monday.

It was the result of four separate lightning-caused blazes that
merged into one Friday night near the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Park
along I-80.

The fire initially burned on three sides of a Wal-Mart
distribution center but caused no damage to any structures.


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