Two Nevada wildfires defy crews

RENO - Two voracious wildfires consumed thousands of acres of rural rangeland on Saturday as frustrated fire crews watched them spread virtually unchecked.

''Right now, we've got more fire than we've got resources to handle,'' Bureau of Land Management spokesman Bill Roach said from Elko as the Cricket fire raged 60 miles to the northeast.

It officially had burned 54,000 acres, but Roach said it was expanding on several flanks.

''It's bigger than that. We just don't know how much bigger,'' he said. ''It's made major advances every afternoon and well into the evening.''

It was triggered by lightning just three days before.

Fire bosses are reluctant to put many of their 450 people on the lines because of the erratic winds and single-digit humidity combined with temperatures approaching 100 degrees.

Bulldozers and fire engines from as far away as Reno were close to the flames trying to keep them away from the Union Pacific railroad tracks and Interstate-80. U.S. 93 was closed for several hours on Friday as smoke obscured visibility.

Roach said no serious injuries had been reported and the only known structural loss appeared to be a small camp trailer.

At least one structure of some sort also was overrun by the Coyote fire burning near the Utah line in extreme east central Nevada.

Its behavior was as confusing as that of the Cricket fire, leaving containment at just 5 percent. Engines and air tankers were concentrating on protecting nearby ranches until more resources could arrive.

The Phillips Ranch Fire, which was estimated to have burned about 700 acres of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Great Basin National Park in extreme eastern Nevada, also defied containment.

The rugged terrain allowed only aerial attacks as flames threatened stands of ancient bristlecone pines which had survived everything nature had offered for more than 4,000 years.

The Cottonwood fire in the Stillwater Range southeast of Lovelock remained 70 percent contained. Remapping increased its size from about 2,000 acres to 4,500.

So far this year, 550 fires have consumed at least 310,000 acres in Nevada compared to last year's record 1.7 million acres. Nationally, more than 3.3 million acres have burned this year.

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On the Net:

Western Great Basin Coordinating Center: http://www.nv.blm.gov/2wgbcc

National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov

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