by Susie Vasquez
Nevada Appeal News Service

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June 5, 2007
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Winds fan Larson fire

High winds led to a flare-up of the Larson fire near Coleville, Calif., about 10 a.m. Tuesday, spreading the flames over 600-700 acres and closing schools.

Evacuations were mandatory from Larson Lane in Coleville to Cunningham Lane in Walker. Also, about 70 families from the U.S. Marine housing were evacuated and 250 structures were threatened, according to information from the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center.

The fire was burning about 45 miles south of Carson City on both sides of Highway 395. Winds of 40 mph with gust of 60 mph forced the suspension of air tanker flights over the fire.

"You can't really put a safely loaded airtanker or helicopter up in wind gusts to 50 mph. And even if you could, the drop would go blowing off away from the flames. So all you really are doing is putting a crew at risk," said Mark Struble, a spokesman for the Sierra Front Interagency Fire Dispatch Center.

The U.S. Post Office in Coleville has been evacuated and the mail safeguarded - alternative arrangements are being made for today's delivery.

A power line has been reported down on Highway 395 and it suspended service to about 500 customers.

"The winds are really swirling," Struble said, adding that the forecast called for sustained winds of 20 to 35 mph with gusts to 55 mph overnight.

A team comprised of experts from a number of agencies was called in to fight the fire, according to Nancy Upham, spokeswoman for the Inyo National Forest in Bishop, Calif.

"This is a national team with high-level experience that is sent anywhere in the nation," Upham said. "They're called in to handle more complex fires, or when large-scale evacuations are necessary."

Highway 395 was closed from Bridgeport to Holbrook Junction due to the flames, according to the Mono County Sheriff's Department.

The fire flared first above Coleville High School, according to the dispatch center.

Flames burned over a temporary firefighter camp, which included a refrigerated storage unit and several portable toilets. Two outbuildings, one containing a car and another with a boat were lost, but no injuries were reported.

Coleville students were evacuated to the Marine Base Housing Community Center.

The fire was first sparked Friday afternoon by lightning and quickly grew to 150 acres.

But within 24 hours of flaring up, the blaze was reduced to smoldering brush by Saturday afternoon. Firefighters had hoped to have a line completely around it by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The blaze is burning in grass, sagebrush and pinyon pine on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands. Crews with more than 225 firefighters and 14 engines from the U.S. Forest Service, Mono County, East Fork Fire Protection District, California Division of Forestry, California Highway Patrol, CalTrans, and the Nevada Highway Patrol are on scene.

More wind is forecast for today. According to the National Weather Service, winds will be from the west, northwest at 14-17 mph with gusts up to 31 mph.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Jun 6, 2007 01:39PM Published Jun 5, 2007 03:00AM Copyright 2007 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.