Wildfire destroys several Nevada homes; evacuations lifted
By SCOTT SONNER
Jul. 19, 2017
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Hundreds of residents of two rural northeast Nevada communities returned to their homes Tuesday to assess damage from a raging, wind-driven wildfire that destroyed several residences in Elko County and shut down a stretch of Interstate 80 for several hours.
An evacuation advisory also was lifted in western Nevada on Tuesday for a tribal community threatened by another wildfire burning north of Reno as gusty winds subsided and extremely hot temperatures gave way to more seasonal norms.
No serious injuries have been reported at either fire. But authorities estimate at least 14 homes were damaged or destroyed by the fire that broke out northeast of Elko on Monday and has burned more than 11 square miles (28 square kilometers) of brush and rangeland.
Elko County canceled a civil emergency and lifted evacuation orders Tuesday for the town of Osino and the Whiterock area straddling the interstate about 90 miles west of the Utah line. I-80 traffic was moving unrestricted in both directions.
More than 500 homes were threatened at one time, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which authorized the use of federal funds Tuesday to help fight the fire. FEMA also approved assistance for the Long Valley Fire north of Reno.
Fire officials estimated the blaze was 30 percent contained and no longer posed any immediate threat.
"It looks good now. There's very little smoke," U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Greg Deimel said late Tuesday afternoon. "There are no evacuations for anybody now."
Doris Amigliore was among those who returned Tuesday to the fire zone where her father's trailer burned. She said he bought it eight years ago after his old one was damaged by an electrical fire.
"I'm sure he'll want to put in another trailer and get started again. But it's going to be difficult for him to do this again," she told the Elko Daily Free Press while she searched for her father's cat. "It has to take a toll on you."
The fire was believed to be started by humans because there was no lightning in the area. The cause remained under investigation, however.
The state applied for the federal assistance within hours of when the blaze was reported. It will allow the state to be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of the firefighting costs.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, praised the federal agency for its quick action. "Fires across northern Nevada have shut down highways, threatened homes and property, and put lives at risk. These are our family members, friends, and our neighbors," Heller said in a statement Tuesday.
Residents of Sutcliffe also were returning to their homes Tuesday on the edge of Pyramid Lake about 35 miles northeast of Reno. State Route 445 also was reopened.
About 900 firefighters remained on the lines of the wind-driven blaze that has burned 130 square miles of grass, sagebrush and scrubby pines since it broke out last Tuesday just west of the California-Nevada line.
The Southern California Interagency incident management team in charge of the fire estimated it was 40 percent contained. The team reported Tuesday that the forward progression of the flames was held overnight and the situation "looks much better today."
Wildfire managers statewide say extensive growth of cheat grass from a very wet winter, combined with high winds, extremely low humidity and unusually hot weather, have created perfect conditions for explosive rangeland fires.
"It is very thick, very dense," Deimel said. "You get the winds and the density of the grass, the fire just goes."
Monday was the first time the high temperature failed to reach 95 degrees or hotter in Reno since June 29. That 17-day stretch fell just two days shy of the record of 19 consecutive days form Aug. 3-21, 1940.
The high in Reno topped out at 94 Monday and surpassed 90 early Tuesday afternoon — the 33rd day in a row it's been 90 or higher. That's also two shy of the record 35 straight days of at least 90 degrees set in July and August of 2005, and tied in 2008 and 2010.