Homes kept from blaze

RENO, Nev. — Two hundred firefighters with air support turned back the immediate threat to homes north of Reno where a series of lightning-sparked wildfires prompted voluntary evacuations Friday, but more fire crews were on the way as evening thunderstorms moved into the area packing potential for more trouble.

The biggest blaze dubbed the “Rock Fire” has burned about 2 square miles in the Red Rock area east of U.S. Highway 395 but was 50 percent contained as of 7:30 p.m. Froday and should be fully contained by Monday night, Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District spokeswoman Erin Holland said.

No structures have been damaged or injuries reported.

About 40 homes were threatened earlier Friday in the dry, high-desert of the Sierra Nevada where temperatures exceeded 100 degrees about 30 miles north of Reno.

But voluntary evacuations were lifted later in the day and no homes faced any imminent danger by Friday evening, interagency fire spokesman Mark Struble said.

“Fire behavior has greatly diminished,” he said in an update shortly after 7 p.m.

Red Rock resident Karen Wegman was among those who voluntarily evacuated when she said 12-foot flames burned up to a firebreak near her home.

“We had a lot of anxiety,” Wegman told KTVN-TV in Reno after an air tanker dropped red retardant on a neighboring vacant house.

“We watched it for hours raging around the house,” she said. “It was very, very close.”

Another trio of fires called the Virginia Mountain Complex near the Nevada line east of Doyle, California has burned about 14 square miles of mostly grass and sagebrush, but no structures have been threatened.

Dozens of residents voluntarily evacuated to a Red Cross shelter set up at a middle school in Stead after dry lightning started the biggest fire about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, but they all had left by midday Friday.

Smoke in the Reno-Sparks area prompted Washoe County officials to issue an air quality alert for sensitive populations, including young children, the elderly and those with respiratory issues.

Holland said cooler weather helped crews make progress on the blaze Thursday night and early Friday when air tankers joined the fight, dropping retardant on the flames as temperatures reached 100 degrees for the third day in a row.

More crews were expected to arrive late Friday as thunderstorms moved into the area. Reno’s high temperature was forecast to reach 101 on Saturday.

A red-flag warning remained in effect until 9:30 p.m. Friday, and the National Weather Service forecast winds gusting up to 50 mph.

“New fire starts from lightning, strong erratic outflow winds and brief periods of heavy rain are likely,” the service said.


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