Firefighters have halted the forward march of the wind-stoked Caughlin fire on the outskirts of Reno, officials said Friday afternoon, potentially sparing thousands of houses and clearing the way for evacuees to return home Saturday.
In 12 hours, the Caughlin fire destroyed or damaged 25 homes and chewed through 2,000 acres, clogging the sky with orange flames and smoke. A 74-year-old man fleeing his home died of heart failure, officials said, and more than a dozen people were transported to hospitals for heart and respiratory problems.
Though gusts of up to 65 mph are expected to batter the area until 4 p.m. Friday, Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez said, crews had stopped the conflagration’s progress. The blaze had chased nearly 10,000 people from their homes, closed dozens of schools and prodded Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval to declare a state of emergency.
The Caughlin fire erupted just after midnight Friday, as fierce, erratic winds spewed embers into brush and sent flames surging toward densely populated hillside neighborhoods. Authorities banged on doors to wake residents in the fire’s path and urge them to evacuate.
“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.
“I couldn't even stand up," Hecht said. "It was like a tornado.”
Meanwhile, some 450 firefighters struggled to stay in front of the wind-fanned blaze.
“We had fire crews leapfrogging each other,” Hernandez said at a televised news conference. “It was a very dynamic, fast-moving event.”
-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Photo: Emergency personnel respond to a wildfire in Reno. Credit: Tim Dunn / Reno Gazette-Journal