Battling First Wildfire of Season

Wildfire the 2003 Season
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If you noticed smoke in the air Sunday afternoon, that's because the first wildfire of the 2003 season broke out and continues to burn today.

A 15-20 acre wildland fire continues to burn along interstate 80 near the California-Nevada border.

The fire may be small but four fire agencies have responded and, at least 100 firefighters are on the scene.

Firefighters say that this fire was started by a person - not by lightening. It started at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

And, firefighters say, the only reason this fire hasn't spread more is because the winds have been calm. That's a good thing because, so far, there haven't been any helicopters to help the firefighters on the ground to get this fire under control.

On the ground the flames aren't the only danger for firefighters. "They are on steep ground and very rocky slopes," says Kelly Martin of the U.S. Forest Service. Martin also says the smoke the flames are producing can be dangerous for firefighters as well.

Crews from the California Department of Forestry, the Nevada Department of Forestry, the U.S.Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are all working to put it out.

As of 4:30 Sunday afternoon, helicopters had not arrived because Martin says they weren't prepared for the early start to fire season. on scene were seven engines, three hand crews, and two water tenders had to fight the fire without help from the air.

Plus, there have been some obstacles getting into the fire area. "The concern is getting our resources in here because traffic is backed up to Reno," Martin said.

The California Highway Patrol did close one lane of traffic on I-80 westbound for about 2 hours, but the freeway stayed open.

Martin says this fire season could shape up to be just as bad as the last two years and firefighters need the public's help to avoid fires like this one.

"People have to be extremely careful about not throwing cigarette butts out of their car and camp fire are especially a concern for us," Martin said.