Human Error Blamed For Sierra Wildfire

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A cooking fire that got away has been blamed for sparking a 940-acre fire in the Sierra that threatened a Marine Corps housing compound and shut down a major highway linking western Nevada and Southern California.

Investigators said on Tuesday that four youths built the fire and embers blew into nearby brush. The Mono County district attorney's office will determine whether charges should be filed against the youths, according to fire information officer Murray Shoemaker.

The Vittori fire broke out Monday afternoon and quickly spread to 900 acres. It erupted near where some 470 firefighters were battling a 2,100-acre wildfire that began on Friday in the same area about 70 miles south of Reno, Nev.

The larger blaze was fully contained on Tuesday and crews were pulled off it to attack the Vittori fire. They were joined by 10 helicopters while five single-engine air tankers were sent back to their bases.

The smaller fire was 75 percent contained on Tuesday and was expected to be surrounded by fire lines later Wednesday. U.S. 395, closed when the fire burned across it on Monday, reopened at midafternoon Tuesday.

The fire was burning in grass, sagebrush and mixed pinon-juniper left dust dry by five years of drought.

The area is about 20 miles north of Walker, Calif., where a wildland fire in 2002 covered 23,000 acres. Three men were killed when their air tanker spreading fire retardant crashed after its wings fell off.


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