Searing Temperatures Hamper Nevada Firefighters

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Weather in the form of searing temperatures in the triple digits and a threat of renewed thunderstorms was becoming as much of a bane to hundreds of firefighters on Tuesday as the lightning-sparked fires they were battling across northern Nevada.

The state's largest blaze - the Highway 93 Complex near Jackpot and the Idaho line - grew to 63,000 acres and continued to expand beyond its 98 square miles, although it was about 45 percent contained, according to Elko Interagency Dispatch Center Manager Bill Roach.

Suppression efforts have been hampered by limited access and terrain that will not permit dozer line construction or direct attack by engines, he said.

Thirty cows either have been killed by the fire or have been put down because of injuries.

While crews gained some ground on the fire, they also were watching the skies.

"The weather forecast for rest of the week does not look promising," Roach said. "If the predicted dry lightning and scattered thunderstorms arrive, fire conditions will be extreme once again."

The state's other major fire, the 58,000-acre Tungsten blaze three miles north of Imlay continued to threaten outbuildings, although crews had cut a line around half of its 90 square miles.

The 22,650-acre Thomas fire that burned into the back yards of a residential area of Winnemucca, about 170 miles east of Reno, but was stopped short of the houses was 75 percent contained. An electrical substation and a handful of outbuildings were destroyed.

Calmer winds aided crews on Monday, according to fire spokesman Pete Jankowski, although temperatures peaked at 102 degrees.

"We've made a lot of progress. The weather's really cooperating," he said.

Jankowski said the weekend winds of 30-40 mph were extreme while
Monday's 10-15 mph breezes were more predictable.

Since Friday afternoon, about two dozen lightning-caused wildfires had blackened some 162,000 acres - more than 250 square miles - of rangeland across northern Nevada.

In western Nevada, an 18,000-acre fire 10 miles south of Silver Springs was 50 percent contained. Full containment of the 28-square-mile fire was expected by Tuesday evening.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)