Fire near Reno: 20 homes burned; 1 dead; blaze at 50% containment
More than 20 homes have been destroyed by a brush fire sweeping through Nevada's the Washoe Valley area, officials said Friday, and at least one death has been reported in the fire zone.
The blaze has consumed more than 3,700 acres and forced thousands of people to flee, a Washoe County spokeswoman said Friday morning. About 2,000 people remained under orders to evacuate.
Although the fatality occurred in the fire zone, officials said they were still investigating whether it was a direct result of the blaze, which began Thursday.
Approximately 150 firefighters worked through the night battling the fire, which was believed to be about 50% contained Friday morning. About 400 more firefighters were expected Friday, said Mark Regan, a spokesman for the Sierra Fire Protection District.
In all, more than 700 people are assigned to the fire, including law enforcement officers and members of the Nevada National Guard, Regan said.
"We're going to work as best we can to secure the area," he said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, he said in a prepared statement.
Twenty homes have been lost to the fire, but officials said about 800 homes have been saved.
U.S. Highway 395 was closed and is expected to be out of service intermittently on Friday due to damage to power lines and guard rails, according to a statement released by officials. Commuters between the Reno-Sparks area and Carson City were advised to seek alternate routes through Fernley and Silver Springs.
The blaze is similar to a wildfire that destroyed about 30 homes around Reno in November. That fire forced the evacuation of 10,000 people.
The Reno area went 56 days without precipitation before snow this week, and the weather Friday and Saturday should help efforts to contain the fire, especially by evening, according to National Weather Service reports.
Wind gusts of up to 55 mph were expected early in the afternoon, a relative relief from the 80 mph winds that fanned the flames on Thursday, according to weather service meteorologist Mark Faucette. Even better, the weather system the winds are bringing could dump three-quarters of an inch of rain in the valleys of western Nevada, Faucette said.
"We don't expect much of a chance of rain today during the day, at least down on the fire," Faucette said. "By tomorrow morning, we could have snow down on the valley floor, a tiny little bit, like an inch."
The humidity is also expected to climb to about 35% to 40%, Faucette said. It dropped to about 10% on Thursday.
-- Michael Muskal