Linehan fire 90 percent contained

Brad Horn/Nevada Appeal Firefighters from the Northern Native Rocky Mountain Firefighters, of Browning, Mont., the Blackfeet Reservation, rest after fighting the Linehan fire in Mound House on Thursday at base camp at Carson High School in Carson City.

Brad Horn/Nevada Appeal Firefighters from the Northern Native Rocky Mountain Firefighters, of Browning, Mont., the Blackfeet Reservation, rest after fighting the Linehan fire in Mound House on Thursday at base camp at Carson High School in Carson City.

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Crews are halfway to containing 16 lightning-started wildfires that burned between Bordertown and Silver Springs, and charred nearly 11,000 acres of land.

The Linehan fire that began Monday in Mound House and spread into east Carson City is 90 percent contained at 5,863 acres, said fire information officer Karla Norris.

"Tomorrow, crews will be rehabbing dozer lines so we don't have to worry about flooding, and continuing to mop up," she said.

On Thursday, crews improved existing fire lines, mopped up within some sections of each fire, and began assessing what it will take to rehabilitate the fire zone.

Lightning struck twice in a five-mile radius between Mound House and Silver City on Monday, igniting mountaintops ripe with fuel from the wet winter.

The Linehan and Flat fires grew into one blaze, which, along with ornery winds, kept crews scrambling between Carson and Mound House for at least two days.

Wednesday afternoon, the skies opened up and dropped about 2 inches of rain on the fire zone.

"Right now the complex is looking really good," said Lisa Ortega, spokeswoman for the Great Basin/Rocky Mountain Type I team. "Crews are out there fighting hot spots, and we're starting to get some people home."

Ortega said some of the firefighters will respond to Winnemucca, where the Poito fire is burning at more than 5,000 acres in the Poito Valley. The cause of that fire was unavailable.

The Great Basin/Rocky Mountain team is now most concerned with the Virginia fire, 80 percent contained at 3,200 acres, southwest of Fernley, and the difficult-to-reach Balls Canyon fire near Bordertown, which has reached 1,809 acres and is still burning.

Norris said other fires in the 215 square miles under the Great Basin command are the Olinghouse fire in Stagecoach, the Palomino Valley fire in northeast Reno, the Oregon fire north of Lemmon Valley and the Payson fires north of Spanish Springs Peak. The Iron Mountain, Copper Canyon and Radio Towers fires have been extinguished, she said.

Scott Gahagen, a disc jockey who was in his Linehan Road home when the fires began, said he didn't expect Monday's lightning storm to bring such angst.

"The first thing I heard was a huge thunder and just a wind like I've never felt before - one big gust of wind that almost knocked me down," he recalled.

Gahagen said he immediately saw the Flat blaze.

"So I was watching that fire, and I thought it was a getting a little closer. When I looked up, I saw the other fire and I thought 'Oh my God, there's a fire behind us too.'"

Gahagen and his new bride, Terri, thought they were being proactive when they decided to run one of their three vehicles down to Highway 50 East and come back for their two shih tzus and clothing. But once he reached the highway, a trooper prevented him from going back, he said.

He called Terri and told her not to drive out, to go back and get Socrates and Plato.

"I was really concerned for her. I could see the flames were really beginning to sort of envelope and circle the top of the hill so I just told her to grab the dogs and go," he said.

The foursome stayed on Highway 50 watching the activity until the road was opened. They rented a room in Carson City.

Wednesday morning they made their way home and found everything was OK.

"The firefighters did a tremendous job of not losing any structures, especially as dynamic as the fire was," Gahagen said. "I have nothing but praise for them."

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.

The following are quotes collected during three days covering the Linehan fire:

"I told the firefighters, 'You guys are lifesavers. You couldn't have done anything more." - Darryl Atchison of Gardnerville. Atchison drove to Mound House as soon as he heard his grandparents were being evacuated from Feldspar Drive on Monday. When the family returned, they saw that fire crews had stopped the flames five feet from his grandparents' home.

"If you stand right here, you can practically see the trees explode!" - J.D. Simeroth, 10, of Mound House. On Monday, J.D. evacuated with his family to the parking lot of the Mound House General Store. He jumped up on the back of a pickup to show a visitor the fire on the ridge.

"Things have turned real ugly in the last 10 minutes. These people should be evacuating." - Retired firefighter Alan Gardner of Carson City who drove in to Mound House on Monday afternoon and was watching the fire on the ridge. Within an hour the fire had made it's way across a field, causing residents to flee the neighborhood.

"This thing has changed directions twice now. We've had fires out here before, but nothing like this." - Rob Brehm, Mound House homeowner, who was spraying down his fence until he had to get in his car to escape.

"We're down to a medical helicopter and a single-engine plane. It's spreading. It's going pretty good." - Radio traffic Monday just as the fire reached homes in Mound House.

"They always talk about defensible space, and the inspector comes out to my place and tells me every summer that I have nothing to worry about. He says I'll be fine, and that if this area starts to burn I'll definitely get firefighters because I'm the only business out here. Well, now I'm going to get that defensible space." - Jeff Kyle, owner of Added Storage off Highway 50 East, said while gazing at blackened hills surrounding his business after Monday's fire. The fire came right up to his property line and even scorched the plastic on his fence.


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