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'Remorseful' man says fireplace ashes may have caused Nevada fire

January 20, 2012 |  6:40 pm


An elderly man authorities have described as "extremely remorseful" came forward Friday saying he may have caused a rural brush fire that has destroyed nearly 30 homes near Reno.

The man, who has not been identified because the investigation is ongoing, told officials he improperly disposed of fireplace ashes.

In light of the man's admission, investigators are conducting a criminal investigation into whether his actions caused the fire and whether they will merit criminal charges.

A woman died in the fire area -– possibly of suffocation -- but authorities were still working to determine how she died, said Armando Avina, spokesman for the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.

On Friday night, fire crews continued to battle the fire, which was 65% contained. It has burned almost 4,000 acres in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood near Reno, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents. Some evacuees have been able to return to their homes.

Fire crews worked overnight to battle the fast-moving blaze, which was stoked by strong winds Thursday.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has declared a state of emergency, making the county eligible for federal disaster funds.

A fire in November destroyed about 30 homes in south Reno. In that fire, a man died of a heart attack after he alerted a neighbor that their neighborhood was being evacuated.


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Photo: The ruins of a home south of Reno on Friday. Credit: Cathleen Allison/Associated Press