Fires north of Reno fully contained; Pyramid Lake back open

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SUTCLIFFE, Nev. (KOLO)-- 5 p.m. Friday update:
The Virginia Mountains Complex of fires that included the Tule Fire that threatened Pyramid Lake is now 100 percent contained.

The final acreage for the five fires is 62,020. The prior figure for all fires was 59,727 acres.

The Tule Fire, which originally was projected to be contained on Saturday, is 36,142 acres. It started July 28 in remote mountain north of Palomino Valley and spread slowly before roaring down the hillside and threatening Sutcliffe, which lost one home and three mobile homes.

The initial concern on July 28 was the Rock Fire, which was threatening homes in the south end of the Red Rock Road area. The Rock Fire grew to 2,293 acres, the smallest.

The Anderson Fire grew to 16,284 acres and prompted evacuations in the Fish Springs Road and Cottonwood Canyon areas.

The Sage Fire was 4,238 acres and the Seven Lakes Fire was 3,063 acres.

Local Bureau of Land Management fire crews will patrol to look for flare ups. Other firefighting resources are being released to either return home or go to other fires.

A Burned Area Emergency Response team will assess the burned areas and recommend additional rehabilitation to limit erosion and the spread of weeds like cheatgrass.

7:50 p.m. Thursday update:
Pyramid Lake will be open again for recreational uses on Friday, the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe has announced.

The action comes as major firefighting efforts have ceased.

To buy tribal permits and for additional information, go to www.pyramidlake.us.

7:15 p.m. Thursday update:

The five fires of the Virginia Mountains Range showed no growth and remained at the 59,727 acres reported Wednesday.

Containment has crept up from 68 percent to 73 percent, according to the last Bureau of Land Management fire update.

The Tule Fire that threatened Sutcliffe on Saturday showed only moderate fire behavior as it burns north along the west shore of Pyramid Lake. Firefighters expect it to completely stop spreading within 48 hours.

The Anderson Fire has isolated heat and no perimeter movement. The Sage and Seven Lakes fires have no movement.

2:30 p.m. Thursday update:
The Pyramid Lake Pauite Tribe reminds people wanting to visit Pyramid Lake that the lake is still closed to the public until further notice as firefighters continue to gain ground on the Tule Fire.

8:30 p.m. Wednesday update:
The Virginia Mountains Complex has grown another 10 percent to 59,727 acres, according to the latest fire update. But containment jumped from 41 percent to 68 percent.

The fires in the complex are expected to be contained by Saturday, Aug. 6.

The Tule Fire that menaced Sutcliffe is 36,142 acres and 35 percent contained. It was 30,342 acres on Tuesday.

The Anderson Fire north of Red Rock is 16,284 acres and now 25 percent contained.

There are an estimated 700 fire personnel on all the fires.

Weather cooperated enough that crews were able to build containment lines directly next to the fire, according to the latest fire update. They also built lines about 2 miles north of the Anderson Fire and about 3 miles north of the Tule Fire between Adobe Springs Road and Fish Springs Road using bulldozers and hand crews. The fires are expected to burn to those lines and stop.

“Between the current fire edges and the contingency line, the wildland fuels are thick and continuous, making suppression difficult and potentially dangerous,” the update said.

Helicopters and air tankers provided minimum support due to the nature of the burning fires.

“Engines and hand crews continued to secure portions of the fire perimeter on the east flank of the Anderson Fire and the west flank of the Tule Fire, further reducing the threat to vital sage-grouse and ungulate habitat in the Spanish Flat area,” firefighters report.

Homes and ranches in the Fish Springs and Cottonwood Creek areas are now facing much less risk from fire.

Pyramid Lake remains closed for recreation.

9 p.m. Tuesday update:
The Bureau of Land Management continues to map the growth of the Virginia Mountains Complex fires. The five combined have burned 53,925 acres, or about 84 square miles, as of Tuesday night. That number is downgraded from numbers released earlier in the day, but containment for the complex as a whole is 41%, up only one percent since Monday night.

Tuesday afternoon, crews conducted a burnout to keep flames from Pyramid Highway. That raised a smoke plume seen from much of the Truckee Meadows, but it wasn't an indicator that the fire was getting out of hand.

Pyramid Lake is still closed to recreationalists.

The Anderson Fire has grown to 16,284 acres and is 12% contained. The Sage Fire is fully contained at 4,238 acres; the Seven Lakes Fire is fully contained at 3,063 acres. The biggest fire, The Tule Fire that caused significant damage to the Sutcliffe area, is 30,340 acres and 35% contained. The Rock Fire is fully contained at 2,293 acres.

9 p.m. Monday update:
The Bureau of Land Management says the Virginia Mountains Complex fires have burned a total of 47,876 acres as of Monday night, or roughly 75 square miles. Earlier Monday, the estimate was about 50,000 acres. Containment on the entire complex is about 40%, with full containment the goal by August 6.

The complex consists of four fires about 40 miles north of Reno. They are believed to have been caused by lightning July 29, 2016.

The Anderson Fire has grown to 13,196 acres and is 12% contained. The Sage Fire is fully contained at 4,238 acres; the Seven Lakes Fire is fully contained at 3,063 acres. The biggest fire, The Tule Fire that caused significant damage to the Sutcliffe area, is 27,379 acres and 35% contained.

The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe says power, water and sewer service has been restored to Sutcliffe, with residents returning to their homes.

Evacuations continue for the Cottonwood Creek and Fish Springs Road areas north of Red Rock. Also, Pyramid Lake Tribal Police continue their evacuations of people in the Big Canyon area. The Nixon gym is still available for evacuees.

Pyramid Lake is still closed to the public during the firefight. SR445, though, has been reopened in the area.

The American Red Cross is taking donations here for victims of the fire.

1:35 p.m. Sunday update:
The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe has make a declaration of disaster for the reservation and is working with federal and state agencies on recovering from the Tule Fire, the tribe announced.

It asks people who do not live there or are not involved in recovery efforts to stay away from the lake.

9:30 a.m. Sunday update:
Winds pushed a wildfire down from the ridge on Saturday and into the Pyramid Lake town of Sutcliffe, burning one home and three mobile homes, knocking out power and water and forcing the evacuation of 600 Sutcliffe residents.

The worst seems to be over, said Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe emergency manager Don Pelt. But it could be three days before electricity is restored and people can return to their homes. Water is off because electricity is off.

Crews are still surveying damage and the number of homes lost could rise.

“We lost numerous storage sheds out there,” Pelt said. “We haven’t even begun to count those. I know of at least three travel trailers and two automobiles.”

He is working to get a telephone number where people can call to find out about the status of their property until they can return.

About 20 people stayed at the gymnasium in Nixon. There were also about 200 people evacuated from the beaches at Pyramid Lake.

The fire is still burning in spots but there doesn’t seem to be a risk of the fire threatening Sutcliffe again.

Lightning started the fire Thursday north of Palomino Valley and it continued to burn until it reached 7,267 acres on Saturday morning. Then it exploded, reaching an estimated 18,000 acres as it pushed down from the hillside and into Sutcliffle, stopping only when it reached the beaches and water of Pyramid Lake.

Fire engines from numerous fire agencies stood ready with their hoses to protect homes and other structures in Sutcliffe, saving most of them, but not all. With hydrants useless because the water system didn't work with electricity out, water tenders ferried water to the home-saving firetrucks.

“It was a bad fire,” Pelt said. “One of the worst I’ve seen in my career.”
Nevada wind and heavy fuels from not having a fire in a long time are the primary culprits in the fire, Pelt said.

“Those gusty winds on the ridge tops just pushed it along,” Pelt explained. “It was very surprising for us. Fortunately we had our evacuation plan prearranged. We were able to get folks out before it blew up like that.”

The lightning-started Rock Fire, north of Red Rock and the first in the complex, is fully contained after burning about 1500 acres. It threatened homes Thursday night.


Donna submitted this photograph of the Tule Fire near Sutcliffe on Saturday.