A spring storm brought blizzard-like conditions and driving controls to the Sierra while welcome snow blanketed a wildland fire north of Carson City that threatened a handful of homes.
Chains were mandatory early Wednesday on Interstate 80 over
Donner Summit and on U.S. 50 across Echo Summit. Controls on the
two trans-Sierra highways as well as other mountain highways were
removed as temperatures gradually warmed.
Despite partial clearing on Wednesday, forecasters were calling for unsettled weather with a chance of snow into the weekend.
The storm, accompanied by powerful wind gusts, created blizzard-like conditions in the mountains.
In the valleys of western Nevada, winds to 50 mph fanned a wildland fire at the south end of Washoe Valley, sending flames within 100 feet of some rural ranch homes north of Carson City.
The fire began about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and blackened about 100
acres east of Washoe Lake before heavy snow began falling a couple
of hours later.
The huge flakes quickly blanketed the fire and by nightfall, the once threatening blaze was left to a single crew to patrol overnight.
The fire was sparked by embers from a permitted burn, according to Reno fire spokesman Steve Frady. He said the owners of the Deer Run Ranch Bed and Breakfast on Eastlake Boulevard conducted the burn earlier in the week and covered the pile with dirt that was blown away by the winds.
Frady said about 200 firefighters, including engines and 20-person hand crews, responded to the blaze that sent thick plume of smoke into the skies over the valley sandwiched between Reno and Carson City.
Local, state and federal fire agencies responded from across the region. No injuries were reported.
Tuesday's wildfire follows another sizable one that scorched the hillsides west of Pleasant Valley on April 6 and two small brush fires in Reno that each destroyed a home in March.
With vegetation already tinder dry with summer more than two months away, the situation is clearly dangerous, Frady said.
"We never really left last fire season. We've had fires every month," Frady said. "This is indicative of the potential of the season we're facing."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)