Firefighters Turn Back Blaze Near Red Rock

Wildfire the 2003 Season
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A wildfire raged out of control this evening north of Reno - burning dangerously close to homes.

The fire burned 119 acres before firefighers could get the upper
hand tonight. It is now 90 percent contained.

The fire broke out just before 5:00 in the Red Rock area north of
Reno near Highway 395.

We saw what the area looked like from the air at the height of the fire. We saw a lot of smoke, but the scene was much more
impressive from the ground.

The blaze burned dangerously close to several buildings, including homes.

But tonight - thanks to the quick response by firefighters and a little bit of luck - no one is hurt and the homes and businesses survived.

First out were the animals -goats, horses and dogs - all saved mostly by strangers who saw the fire and came to help.

Most of the homeowners arrived after firefighters started their full attack in time to see flames burning up the dry brush, smoke
billowing over the homes and stinging the eyes of bystanders.

"We can't do anything - you feel bad because we feel like we can't do
anything," said resident Jennifer Ramirez.

For the firefighters the wind was the biggest challenge. At one point it blew from three different directions, forcing firefighters to change their tactics several times.

Russel Byington, Nevada Division of Forestry:
"First we were trying to do structure protection," said Russell Byington of the Nevada Division of Forestry.

"We thought we could hold it but the winds would change and we finally went to a burnout operation," he said.

Helicopters and air tankers helped the hand crews - in all more than
120 firefighters spent over two hours bringing the blaze down.

"We probably have some of the best wildland firefighters in the nation
right here in this area," said Chief Marty Scheuerman of the Reno Fire Deptartment.

Despite the close calls, firefighters saved several homes and one business. And they stay modest about the accomplishment, saying it's all in a day's work

"We did what we were supposed to do," one said.

The cause of this fire is being investigated, but Scheuerman says witnesses saw people running from the area where the fire started. He says an early assessment is that the fire was started by man, not nature.

And crews are keeping a watch overnight with several engines there to mop up and keep an eye on the smoldering brush.