Lighting fires total 47 as storm belts Sierra |

Lighting fires total 47 as storm belts Sierra

by Susie Vasquez, Appeal Staff Writer

A lightning-generated fire was quickly extinguished just west of the Carson Indian Colony in southwest Carson City on Saturday afternoon.

One of many small fires in the area in the wake of a series of electric storms, it burned less than half an acre of sage and grasses.

In addition to the Carson City Fire Department, about 20 tribe members rushed onto the scene, armed with shovels.

“As soon as it hit, we were up there,” said tribe member Aldean Street. “The wind kept changing and the fire kept growing in a circle, but we had it pretty well contained by the time firefighters got here.”

Street said most of the Indian firefighters belonged to the Bureau of Indian Affairs fire crews at one time.

“It’s tough work,” he said with a smile. “Mostly for the young guys.”

Storm cells from Gardnerville north to Pyramid Lake have started 47 new fires since midnight Friday, according to Arthur Callan, spokesman for the Sierra Interagency Dispatch Center in Minden.

“Seventeen new fires started within two hours Saturday afternoon,” he said. “Many occurred near the Pyramid Highway, Pleasant Valley and Washoe Valley, but the moisture has really helped. There are only two fires of note: the Gate fire and Pan fire.”

Located on lands managed by the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, the 400-acre Gate fire is 15-percent contained. Historic sites and sensitive habitats, together with about 50 homes, 10 commercial buildings and 75 outbuildings in Coleville, Calif., are threatened as the fire moves north.

“Storms Saturday did not bring any precipitation to the higher elevations and the fire there is erratic,” Callan said. “Preheating from the fire warms fuels and the fire has exhibited torching, short runs and spotting.”

About 126 firefighters operating three dozers, nine engines and three water tenders are fighting the blaze, which is being fueled by pi-on, juniper, sage, grass and Jeffrey Pine in rugged terrain.

About 5 percent contained, the Pan fire has consumed 250 acres in rugged terrain about 12 miles north of Bridgeport in the Sweetwater Range.

Cattle have been evacuated and some ranch buildings and historic structures are threatened. About 79 firefighting personnel are on site, the growth potential characterized as medium, according to Callan.

“We’re expecting more erratic storms in the area (today),” Callan said. “The fire is expected to travel north to northeast, growing another 50 to 100 acres.”

The half-acre Buffalo fire east of Fallon, the 5-acre Bull Run fire just east of Carson City and the Alpine Ranch fire east of Fallon have all been contained.