Hazy skies caused by multiple fires in the area | NevadaAppeal.com

Hazy skies caused by multiple fires in the area

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer

Calm weather conditions and intense air support allowed firefighters to gain control of the Sleeping Elephant fire overnight without losing any structures.

The fire was fully contained at 6 p.m. Saturday after burning 750 acres.

The fire, burning northwest of Topaz Lake and south of Highway 208 on top of Wild Oat Mountain south of Topaz Ranch Estates, was sparked by lightning just before 2 p.m. Friday. It burned across the plain and threatened the community, where residents were urged to flee as the fire jumped Highway 208.

The highway was closed for six hours and a shelter set up at Smith Valley High School.

At about 5 p.m. Friday the same shifting winds that sent the fire north toward homes, sent it back south toward Topaz Lake.

By 9 p.m. the highway was reopened and residents were allowed back into the area.

“It really hasn’t done a lot today except smolder and smoke. We dumped a lot of water and dug lines around it,” said Mark Struble, Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch fire information officer.

Almost 140 firefighters, two helicopters and two air tankers helped battle the blaze on Friday but by Saturday afternoon, most were being reassigned.

“We have demobilized pretty heavily already. Here in Nevada, the Elko area is really hurting for resources. They have two big fires burning there and there are a couple in northern Washoe Valley,” Struble said.

The cost to fight the Sleeping Elephant fire is estimated at $52,000.

The heavy smoke that has blanketed Northern Nevada is being caused by several large fires burning to the north and south.

The 11,500-acre Wheeler fire burning west of Honey Lake north of Reno and the Inyo Complex of fires which has burned 12,000 acres between Big Pine and Independence to the south are both contributing to the smoke. Both blazes were caused by the same dry lightning storm that kicked off the Sleeping Elephant fire.

The Rancho Haven fire and the Needles fire have burned a combined 650 acres north of Reno. Each smoldered overnight with little if any forward movement. The Reno Fire Department is in command of both of those fires.

The Adrian I fire is still burning in Lyon County on public land in Bull Canyon, south of the Carson River in the Pine Nut Mountains, approximately 15 miles northwest of Yerington and 10 miles south of Stagecoach. The lightning-caused fire, burning in rough, inaccessible terrain, is being monitored by firefighters and has been estimated to be about 1, 285 acres in size using GPS. One hotshot crew, one Unimog engine and one helicopter have been assigned to the fire.

The Sleeping Elephant fire was just one of the 14 fires that ignited in the Sierra Front on Friday, scorching a total of 1,600 acres during that time. Struble said with the threat of lightning having diminished, crews hope the wind picks up to help them identify any more fires that may have been missed.

“A little wind helps identify those sleeper fires because it kicks up the smoke so someone can see it. You may have a tree trunk smoldering that nobody can see unless the smoke picks up,” Struble said.

Fire officials also wanted to offer their thanks to the public for being safe while celebrating Independence Day, as no incidents involving fireworks-caused fires was reported. Struble cautions however, that the threat of fire is far from over.

“We still have a long way to go in the major part of this fire season,” Struble said.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.