1,000 Firefighters Stretched to Limit Battling burning acres in Nevada

June 29, 2006

More than 1,000 firefighters were battling a series of lightning-sparked fires that had burned more than 79,000 acres across northern Nevada by Tuesday, putting just about every available piece of equipment and firefighter on the lines.

The blazes closed two major highways, scorched part of the training grounds at the state fire academy and forced evacuations of homes and businesses, including a legal brothel.

“We’re stretched about about as thin as possible. Thankfully our neighbors from around Nevada and across the country are giving us a hand,” Bureau of Land Management Assistant Fire Management Officer Jeff Arnberger said in Elko, where the largest blazes burned out of control.

The Suzie fire 10 miles north of town had consumed 50,000 acres of sagebrush and grass. It closed Interstate 80 for about 3 hours on Monday and nearly doubled in size during the afternoon when a storm cell settled directly over the fire.

Just east of that, the Elburz fire blackened 12,600 acres and the Sneekee fire in the Red Springs Wilderness Study Area 35 miles southwest of Elko was estimated at 6,000 acres of grass and brush.

Eight Clark County firefighters, a wildfire coordinator and two engines were dispatched late Monday to the Elburz fire — a trip of more than 400 miles.

In the more heavily timbered area east of Carson City, the Linehan complex in Mound House, east of Carson City, grew to 6,000 acres overnight and had looped north around Carson City, sending a mile-long snake of fire down a hillside near McClellan Peak.

About 200 properties in Mound House were threatened at one point and a few were voluntarily evacuated, including the Moonlite Bunny Ranch.

“The girls were back by two this morning,” a bartender who gave only the name of Wendy said. “we’re back in business and we’ve got business.”

Some residents also left their homes voluntarily north of Reno where an estimated 120 firefighters were working a complex of fires as large as 800 acres in Palomino Valley and Lemmon Valley.

Light winds, higher humidity and a lack of thunderstorms gave fire crews a little relief on Tuesday.

Evacuations earlier were ordered in two rural communities near Elko and flames burned within one-quarter mile of homes about 15 miles northwest of Reno just west of the Nevada-California line.

No injuries were reported in any of the fires and no buildings burned.

The Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center in Minden, Nev., said at least 16 new fires had been reported since the storms passed Monday afternoon through its jurisdiction covering much of western Nevada and northeastern California along the Sierra Nevada.

About 100 miles north of Reno, two other wildfires that began Sunday also continued to burn, including one that blackened about 3,000 acres near Gerlach but was 70 percent contained on Tuesday and was expected to be fully surrounded on Wednesday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved grants on Tuesday to cover costs of fighting the Suzie and Linehan fires and the Oregon fire in Washoe County.

On the outskirts of Susanville in northeastern California, a lightning strike sparked a 625-acre blaze, prompting the evacuation of 100 homes Monday, fire officials said. Residents were allowed to return a few hours later, said Jeff Fontana, spokesman for the Susanville Interagency Fire Center. No injuries were reported and no buildings were destroyed, he said.

By midday Tuesday, the Cheney Fire was 70 percent contained, he said.

About 250 firefighters also were battling 10 separate blazes Tuesday on remote land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, Fontana said.

“The biggest is 2,000 acres, the smallest is several acres,” he said.

Fontana had no containment estimate for the Observation Complex, which began Monday and was burning across rugged, unpopulated terrain that primarily provides habitat for deer and antelope.

The fires were located about 30 miles northeast of Susanville with some taking five hours to reach, he said.

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