Draw Fire burns over 22,000 acres east of Fallon
Firefighters made progress Monday in battling the Draw Fire east of Fallon.
The wildland fire, which began Friday night, is 50 percent contained, said deputy Public Information Officer Norm Rooker.
He said the fire consumed 5,000 more acres as gust afternoon winds pushed the fire further east. As of 8 p.m., the fire burned more than 22,000 acres of short grass, brush (sagebrush and rabbit brush) and closed timber such as pinion-juniper trees.
Because of thick smoke drifting across U.S. Highway 50 east of Cold Springs, the Nevada Department of Transportation shut down the highway shortly after 7 p.m. and was redirecting traffic over Carroll Summit. NDOT also closed the highway on Saturday and Sunday due to the smoke and the fire reaching the edge of the highway.
The fire on Saturday came so close to the Cold Springs complex, which included a restaurant and homes, a SEAT (Single Engine Air Tanker) dropped retardant along the highway to prevent it from crossing to the south side.
A Great Basin Team 3 Type 2 IMT (Interagency Management Team) took command of the fire Monday morning from local and area initial attack fire crews. As the fire spread, the Great Basin Team evacuated residents from the Alpine area north of Cold Springs. Rooker said the latest report stated 25 homes were threatened as well as two commercial properties, the Tungsten Geothermal construction site and a substation.
“So far no structures have been damaged or destroyed,” Rooker said.
In addition to the evacuation, the management team is also monitoring the fire as sections of sage grouse habitat, the Clan Alpine Wilderness Study Area and a horse management area have been affected.
BLM Stillwater Field Manager Ken Collum had requested fire crews use minimal impact with fire suppression efforts, cutting a fire line and using chainsaws in the impacted areas.
Firefighters were under a Red Flag warning Monday afternoon and into the evening as winds periodically gusted to 35-40 miles per hour. Despite the winds, Rooker said the team’s objectives are to keep the fire north and west of U.S. Highway 50, east of Bench Creek and south of Cherry Valley and Cherry Creek.
As the team took control of the fire suppression on Monday, more personnel arrived at the scene. As of Monday night, Rooker said 468 personnel were on site including 15 20-person hand crews and one camp crew. He also said three helicopters, seven engines, four bulldozers and five water tenders were dispatched.
Rooker said the fire team had requested air assets to drop more retardant on the fire, but the tankers were needed on a fire west of Reno.
Agencies involved include the Bureau of Land Management, the Nevada Division Forestry, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, private contractors and local resources. The Fallon/Churchill Volunteer Fire Department assisted on Saturday and Sunday with an engine and two water tenders.
BLM’s Carson City District has two engines, the Eagle Valley hand crew and two managers at the site.
Corrie Behimer, manager of the Cold Springs Restaurant, said she is appreciative of the firefighters’ efforts. Before the Great Basin Team set up Monday morning, Behimer cooked spaghetti dinners for about 400 people Sunday night.
“The cooking went very smooth,” she said. “Everyone was very appreciative.”
Behimer said earlier in the day she made a “quick” trip to Fallon to by additional food and supplies. Once she returned to Cold Spring, Behimer and her staff cooked the pasta and heated the sauce on a six-burner range.
“Doing pasta in a small kitchen is tough,” she said.
Behimer and other saw the lighting strikes Friday night.
“We saw the strike and felt the strong winds,” she said.
The BLM arrived at the site after Behimer and others saw smoke.
“I have nothing but gratitude for what they do,” she said of the firefighters. “They had us covered.”