Heat plagues crews fighting huge wildfires across Northern Nevada | NevadaAppeal.com

Heat plagues crews fighting huge wildfires across Northern Nevada

Associated Press Writer

RENO” Firefighters had to contend with more hot, dry weather Sunday as they fought 20 wildfires that had blackened more than 700 square miles, or 455,600 acres, across Northern Nevada over the last week.

The bulk of the mostly lightning-caused blazes were in Elko County, where residents of tiny Jarbidge near the Idaho border remained under an evacuation order and an unknown number of ranches were threatened. No damage to structures or injuries were reported.

Temperatures hit 99 degrees Sunday in Elko, about 290 miles east of Reno. Officials were trying to make as much progress as possible before the expected return of another round of dry thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday.

The 511,000-acre Murphy complex had pushed south from Idaho to within seven miles of Jarbidge, said fire information officer Bill Watt. While roughly 90 percent of the fire was in Idaho, the most active part of it was in Nevada, he said.

“Crews have set up sprinkler systems and hoses to protect homes and buildings in Jarbidge,” Watt said. “We’re hopeful of keeping the fire out of Jarbidge.”

The three-state 150,000-acre Winecup complex had burned within five miles of Jackpot along the Idaho border, Watt said. While the complex to the east of west of Jackpot also covered parts of Idaho and Utah, an estimated 80 percent of it was in Nevada.

The Winecup complex was 20 percent contained Sunday, while the Murphy complex was 5 percent contained.

“There are ranches throughout this country,” Watt said. “Some ranches have been evacuated and some are threatened. We’re working with ranchers to protect structures.”

Also in Elko County, officials reported major progress against the 87,122-acre Red House complex south and west of Elko and the 58,427-acre Hepworth complex north of Wells.

The string of fires had destroyed extensive rangeland needed to sustain both wildlife and cattle, officials said.

Last year, wildfires in Nevada burned more than 2,000 square miles, or 1.3 million acres, two thirds of which were in Elko County. The loss of wildlife habitat prompted an emergency hunt of deer and antelope in the state.

“Besides the loss of grasslands, the impact on wildlife and ecology will be devastating,” Gov. Jim Gibbons said after touring the Elko County fire areas by air late last week. “Businesses that depend on ranching and hunting will suffer the effects for years to come.”

Nevada Department of Wildlife officials said mule deer and sage grouse especially will feel the loss of habitat. Sage grouse numbers are threatened across the West.

“We’ve effectively lost these habitats for the next 30 to 50 years, conservatively,” said Shawn Espinosa, wildlife biologist for the department. “The potential for successful (habitat) restoration is limited.”

Elsewhere, the 133,521-acre Antelope complex south and west of Battle Mountain was 30 percent contained, while the 3,847-acre Cathedral Fire southwest of Ely was 60 percent contained.

Along the eastern Sierra just west of Reno, the 2,710-acre Hawken fire was 80 percent contained after once threatening hundreds of homes.