Two hand crews and a small bulldozer climbed the dusty hills above southwest Carson City on Thursday to clean up after the Highway 50 fire -- Nevada's first big wildfire of the season.
Firefighters spread brush on the sandy scars that had been cut by bulldozers to stop the spread of the wind-whipped, 1,180-acre blaze.
"You know how when a bulldozer goes through an area, it pushes up berms on both sides?" asked Patty Eder, incident commander for the cleanup. "Well, we're sending the dozer back through and pushing the berms in, then laying brush in those areas."
"You can't even tell there was a dozer line here," said firefighter Bill Baker on the hill Thursday. Wearing a helmet with dried red splatters of fire retardant dropped from planes, the U.S. Forest Service firefighter from Markleeville took the time to plant some of the dry sagebrush upright.
A contracted Caterpillar D4C bulldozer was used to create erosion-stopping water bars and dig "tank trap" ditches meant to discourage off-road vehicles.
"The goal here is to let Mother Nature continue to do what she has already started to do to reclaim this land," explained Carson Ranger District Natural Resource Officer Erick Walker. "Ongoing vehicular traffic will not allow that."
The crews also pulled hose off the hill and confirmed the fire is completely out, Eder said.
"There isn't any smoke at all," she said Thursday. "Yesterday we had a lot of wind on it -- if there had been anything, it would have popped out with that wind yesterday."
Officials declared the fire officially "controlled" Thursday morning, meaning the chance of the fire escaping its containment lines is greatly reduced, according to Carson Fire Management Officer Kelly Martin.
The fire, which began Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., was caused by people, according to a joint investigation by the Forest Service and the Nevada Division of Forestry. The exact cause is still under investigation.
There were no reports of injuries or property damage from the fire, although about 150 high school students and adults attending a Nevada Girls State conference near the fire were moved to Stewart.
The next step in rehabilitation is deciding what to replant and how, said Forest Hydrologist Jim Bergman on Thursday.
"We have to make a determination as to whether or not there's an (environmental) emergency or not," he said. He said he had seen two deer killed by the fire, but that damage was not too bad.
He'll examine the mix of plants in the area and design a native-plant seed mixture to mimic the assortment of lupine, squirrel tail and native grasses. The mix is expected to be "aerially applied" by planes in the fall.