Nevada Wildfire Update

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Firefighters have contained two wildfires burning toward a Nevada town near Death Valley National Park by Tuesday evening.

Blazes outside Beatty, population 1,032, were 100 percent contained says Linda Steinhaus, a spokeswoman for 400 state and federal firefighters battling the two fires flanking the town.

Neither the 3,600-acre Sawtooth Fire, three miles west of town, nor the 20,000-acre Beatty Fire, five miles east of Beatty, threatened U.S. 95, the main road to Las Vegas and Reno.

No injuries were reported, no structures were threatened and no
one has been evacuated, Steinhaus said.

About 45 residents met with fire officials Monday for an update on the progress. Fire commander Merrill Saleen said he had plenty of resources to fight the lightning-ignited fires burning through dry desert grasses and brush in rocky mountain terrain. Eleven crews, 15 engines and three helicopters were on the scene Tuesday, Steinhaus said.

The Sawtooth Fire burned within a few hundred feet of the eastern edge of the huge Death Valley National Park, which is mostly in California.

The 18,600-acre Beatty Fire was less than three miles west of a Nellis Air Force Base bombing range and Yucca Mountain, on the western edge of government's secure Nevada Test Site.

Both fires were sparked by lightning Saturday evening, a day after Saleen and his Boise, Idaho-based federal firefighting group got control of a series of wildfires in the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge north of Las Vegas.

Those lightning-sparked blazes covered 62 square miles in a wildlife refuge that is home to desert bighorn sheep and the endangered desert tortoise.

Firefighters have been trying not to injure tortoises and desert toads that are attracted by the scent of water and burrow into shady areas around and beneath firefighting equipment.

Firefighters contained the Mid-Valley Fire last week in the Nevada Test Site after authorities said it covered 8,500 acres about 10 miles east of Yucca Mountain. Authorities said that fire was not in areas used for nuclear weapons testing from 1951-1992, and no structures were damaged.

"We're optimistic we'll keep it off the test site," Saleen said Monday of the Beatty Fire, which he said might find little new fuel in an area that burned last summer.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.