Firefighters Working to Control Peavine Blaze

Wildfire the 2003 Season
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More than 300 firefighters made progress Tuesday on a brush fire that blackened 1,500 acres on the edge of Reno after burning dangerously close to more than 150 homes.

Three helicopters and two airtankers dumped water and retardant on the fire's perimeter in anticipation of strong winds late in the day fueled, in part, by Hurricane Claudette in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The fire is very, very quiet right now, but the big concern is that we expect winds to pick up to 15 mph to 30 mph,"Forest Service spokeswoman Christie Kalkowski said Tuesday afternoon.

Officials said the fire was 50 percent contained. Earlier Tuesday they had estimated that the fire on Peavine Mountain had covered 1,200 acres and was 80 percent contained, but revised the estimate after an aerial review.

Full containment, meaning the fire is encircled but burning, is expected by Wednesday morning.

The blaze was human-caused but the exact cause remained under investigation, said Kalkowski, a public information officer for the Sierra Front Interagency Fire Center in Minden.

Dozens of fire engines arrived on the scene Monday night as flames reached heights of 50 feet and burned within two miles of a subdivision just west of U.S. Highway 395.

Reno Fire Marshal Larry Farr said it was"probably the most frightening fire we've had"so far this year.

"Initially, the fire was right on top the structures,"he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

No structures have been lost or evacuations ordered.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized federal firefighting funds to cover up to 75 percent of the state's eligible costs for firefighting and emergency response.

Michael Brown, FEMA director and under secretary for the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the funds were approved within hours of receiving the request Monday night.

Brown said in a statement from Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday that the fire had posed a threat to more than 450 homes and that as many as 1,500 people had been prepared to evacuate three housing subdivisions.

Local fire officials didn't consider ordering evacuations, Kalkowski said.

The fire broke out about 6 p.m. Monday at the base of the mountain not far from McQueen High School.

Four airtankers and a helicopter fought the fire until nightfall Monday as a large plume of gray smoke rose above the north side of town.

Fire spokesman Kirk Frosdick repeated concerns Tuesday about the winds "and believe it or not, Hurricane Claudette. "He said it was pushing a weather pattern into the Southwest United States and into northern Nevada.

"It is going to be giving us some very dry lightening, possibly by (Wednesday) night and some very strong winds,"he told KRNV-TV in Reno.

Firefighters from the Reno, Carson City and Truckee fire departments, the Nevada Division of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Verdi volunteers were among those who responded to the blaze.

Monday's wildfire came less than two weeks after a fast-moving brush fire threatened the Reno Mormon Temple in northwest Reno.

That fire on July 2 was contained at 10 acres without any damage to structures. Authorities blamed the fire on children playing with matches.