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Caughlin fire: 20 structures destroyed, thousands evacuated in Reno

November 18, 2011 | 12:10 pm

A wildfire ripped through the southwest part of Reno on Friday, destroying at least 20 structures, forcing 9,500 people to flee and clogging the sky with orange smoke and flames as it continued to bedevil firefighters into the afternoon.  

The 400-acre Caughlin blaze was uncontained, officials said, and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has declared a state of emergency.

The fire erupted just after midnight Friday as fierce, erratic winds spewed embers into brush and sent flames surging toward densely populated hillside neighborhoods, city spokeswoman Michele Anderson told The Times. Authorities banged on doors to wake residents in the fire’s path and urge them to evacuate.

MAP:Reno fire

“The whole mountain was on fire,” resident Dick Hecht told the Associated Press. He and his wife were jarred awake by smoke about 1:30 a.m. A few hours later, they tried to return to home, but were turned back by roaring winds.

PHOTOS: Caughlin Fire

“I couldn't even stand up. It was like a tornado,” Hecht  said.

Officials closed at least 90 schools to make way for emergency responders, the Associated Press said. At least one person suffered cardiac arrest during the fire, Anderson said, and several people have reported problems from smoke inhalation.

In recent hours, Anderson said, “we have not had any retreat from Mother Nature.” The National Weather Service said gusts of up to 65 mph would continue to batter the area until 4 p.m. Friday.


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Photo: Flames surround homes in Reno on Friday. Flames broke out in two areas in Caughlin Ranch. Credit: Tim Dunn / The Reno Gazette-Journal