Lightning causes many small fires Wednesday

An afternoon electrical storm caused several small fires along the Pine Nut Mountains from Topaz Lake to Washoe Valley on Wednesday afternoon.

The largest near Carson City was south of Mound House in Brunswick Canyon. It burned about a half-acre, according to Carson City Fire Chief Lou Buckley.

"Just a lot of small grass fires - most of them are being picked up by BLM," he said, referring to U.S. Bureau of Land Management fire crews. "None of them were very large."

Other fires were reported on McClellan Peak off Goni Road north of Carson, east of the Stewart "S" on Prison Hill and in grass at the base of a power pole on Morgan Mill Road along the Carson River.

There were actually two lightning-caused fires on McClellan Peak, burning about a quarter-acre total. They were knocked down pretty well by accompanying rainfall. Firefighters finished them off by about 4:45 p.m.

The electrical storm also caused brief power outages and problems with street lights. The light at the intersection of Fifth and Roop streets was reported to be blinking red at 4:43 p.m.

"And we had number of false alarm calls because the electricity spike set off alarm systems," Buckley said.

A power surge was blamed for a fire alarm at the Nevada State Railroad Museum about 5 p.m. Several fire vehicles were called in, but the call was quickly downgraded.

An ultra-light airplane was reported struck by lightning above Panamint Road on the east end of the airport at 5:23 p.m. Later reports said a hot-air balloon had crashed. When the firefighters arrived, they realized it was only a collection of helium-filled party balloons.

Several fires were reported in Douglas County as well, including one near Jacks Wright Pass, one near the airport runway, one north of Fish Springs and one in the Sunrise Pass area.

"Hopefully, nothing got going too well," Buckley said.

Jagged pink lighting bolts and thunder blasted Carson City from about 4:30 until 5:30 p.m. followed by a downpour over the capital from about 6 to 6:30 p.m.

"These are just your typical summertime thunderstorms. We can expect more (of them)," said Rudy Cruze, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Reno.

He said a bit of a southerly flow brings moisture to the area and will continue to cause thunderstorms in the late afternoon and early evening.

It's not the immediate brush fires that are the problem, said Buckley.

"The real concern are the ones that sleep - sometimes over night. The lightning will hit the top of a tree or a log and smolder. Twenty-four hours later, you'll have a heck of a fire. So we have to keep a pretty good eye on them."

Contact Karl Horeis at or 881-1219.


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