Firefighters Battle Wildfires in Nevada

Homes and ranches threatened


By SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Three hundred firefighters got the upper hand on a wildland blaze that threatened 400 homes near Gardnerville south of Reno while hundreds of other crew members continued to battle a pair of wildfires threatening dozens of homes and ranches Wednesday in the northwest corner of the state near the Idaho line south of Denio.

All three fires were sparked by lightning on Sunday and Monday, and the National Weather Service warned that another series of storms packing lightning was moving across the northern part of the state Wednesday afternoon.

In Gardnerville about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Reno, voluntary evacuations were lifted and firefighters said they had 20 percent containment of the Preacher Fire, which already has cost $1 million to fight, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.

It started on Monday about 4 miles (6 kilometers) south of a state fish hatchery near the California line and has burned about 7 square miles (18 sq. kilometers) of grass, brush and pinyon pines. No injuries have been reported and no structures have been damaged. Pine Nut Road #2 remained closed to non-essential traffic south of Gardnerville.

Near the Idaho line, dozens of homes were among about 100 structures threatened by the Mahogany and Leonard Creek fires south of Denio.

“It’s a mixture of homes and barns and outbuildings, but there have been no evacuation orders at all,” U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Pam Sichting said Wednesday afternoon from the command post set up at Denio Elementary School about 250 miles (402 kilometers) northeast of Reno.

Fire officials said Nevada Highway 140 could be closed periodically south of Denio due to blowing smoke and dusty winds restricting visibility.

“We had to close the highway (for about 45 minutes Tuesday) because we had erratic, crazy winds come out of a thunderstorm that started blowing the smoke and dust across the road,” she said.

About 170 firefighters were on the lines at the Mahogany Fire, which has burned 7 square miles (18 sq. kilometers) about 9 miles (14 kilometers) south of Denio and was 20 percent contained.

About 180 firefighters were working the Leonard Creek fire which has burned about 5 square miles (13 sq. kilometers) about 28 miles (45 kilometers) south of Denio. That fire was 35 percent contained.

The fires also were threatening a pipeline, electrical lines and a number of natural resources, including a wilderness study area and critical sage grouse habitat.

The grouse habitat is “a very big concern,” Sichting said. She said the sky was blackening as the thunderstorms approached Wednesday afternoon but the forecast was for them to move through quickly “and not really stop and camp out on top of us” like on Tuesday.

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