More than 2,000 acres burned in Little Valley fire
For live updates on the fire, please see this page: https://www.nevadaappeal.com/news/1000-acre-brush-fire-burning-through-little-washoe-valleys/
More than 2,000 acres have been burned and 22 homes destroyed in Washoe Valley from the Little Valley fire.
The fire, which broke out at 1:30 a.m. Friday morning, had 0 percent containment as of Friday night.
Gov. Brian Sandoval issued a verbal State of Emergency for the fire Friday morning, in order to provide rescue teams with all the necessary resources to fight the massive fire.
“We want to make sure they have every resources to do their jobs, which is the protecting the lives and safety of the residents in this area,” Sandoval said, of giving the verbal acceptance of the State of Emergency. “And secondly you have to make these kind of decision promptly. I trust the judgement of the men and women on the ground.”
The fire started behind Franktown Road off Old Highway 395. Residents were notified by telephone of mandatory evacuations in the area and evacuations went smoothly officials said.
As of Friday night, 22 homes and 17 outbuildings were destroyed, though officials couldn’t provide the exact locations of the lost structures. The Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch reported Friday night another 500 structures were threatened.
Evacuated residents were instructed to stay at Fuji Park in Carson City or Depoali Middle School on Wilbur May Parkway in Reno. Residents were concerned with what houses had been damage, one man asking Sandoval to provide the specific addresses.
“A lot of us are waiting to get on with our lives,” the man said. “These clothes on my back may be all that I have left.”
The biggest concern with the Little Valley Fire was the severe amount of wind. The large winds created several spot fires around the main fire, with some reaching as far as a mile in front of the main burn, said Truckee Meadow Battalion Chief Alex Kukulus. Winds gusting up to 76 mph have kept all fire fighting aircraft on the ground.
It has burned about 3 square miles, Kukulus said.
“We’ve made good progress on the homes we are currently protecting,” Kukulus told reporters Friday afternoon.
But “we are not out of the woods,” he said. “We have active fire in the whole area and still no real containment.”
High winds continued throughout the day and will continue to be a challenge for firefighters throughout the weekend. NV Energy cut power to Washoe Valley Friday morning for firefighter safety.
While some rain started to fall around noon on Friday, officials said heavy timber fuel is burning but isn’t being affected by the light moisture hitting the area.
Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District Chief Charles Moore said the cause of the biggest blaze was under investigation. But he said it started in an area where a controlled burn was conducted earlier this week.
More than 100 homes and ranches are scattered throughout the rural valley bordering Washoe Lake. The ones that have burned are along the forested edge of the valley where it meets the eastern front of the Sierra just west of the lake.
Large animals were evacuated to several spots including Fuji Park, Reno-Sparks Livestock Event Center, University of Nevada Reno Equestrian Center, Hidden Valley Park and Rancho San Rafael Park. Volunteers were going into the area with trailers to help get out some livestock and other large animals.
“We’re anticipating a lot of people to show up (at Fuji Park) because we’re a shelter that’s allowing larger animals at the barn,” said Taylor Radtke, Carson City Health and Human Resources spokesperson. “We’re going to stay open as long as needed.”
About 15 volunteers from the health and human resources, CERT, the Salvation Army and Humane Society were out helping preparing meals and helping with first aid training.
“What I really want to get out there is the importance of volunteerism, especially for during these kind of events,” Radtke said. “Without the volunteers we have right now, we wouldn’t have been able to make it.”
“We’re not a mandated organization, it’s in our DNA to serve those in need at this time by providing spiritual and emotional care,” added Mike Cyr, Corps Officer of Salvation Army. “Our experience with last year’s Lake Fire helped us better prepare.”
The Nevada Humane Society also was taking small animals such as cats, dogs and rabbits.
Public safety crews from all over northern Nevada were called out to assist Truckee Meadows Fire Department, including Carson City, Reno, Nevada Highway Patrol, Truckee, Capital Police and NDOT.
“Thank you to the men and women from the fire departments and police departments for putting themselves in harm’s way to protect these people.” Sandoval said. “Just thinking of them fighting this fire in 60 mile per hour winds, steep conditions, dangerous conditions where it is tough to access.”
Nearly 300 firefighters, 35 engines and 5 hand crews were on scene Friday morning, and Kukulus said they had also called in for 25 strike force teams on standby and anticipated receiving nearly 200 engines by the end of Friday.
There’s unified command with TMFPD, Nevada Division Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service. Moore said 125 engines have been ordered and are on their way in. Air support is ready as soon as conditions allow. Until then, there’s an aggressive hand crew attacking the blaze.
Due to safety concerns, officials had closed down most roads in Washoe Valley Friday, including I-580 for part of the morning. Several schools were also closed for safety including Pleasant Valley Elementary School, Galena High School and Hunsberger Elementary.
FEMA authorized the use of federal funds to assist the State of Nevada to combat the Little Valley Fire burning in Washoe County. Fire Management Assistance Grants provide federal funding for up to 75 percent of eligible firefighting costs. The Disaster Relief Fund provides funding for FMAGs through FEMA to assist in fighting fires which threaten to cause major disasters.
On the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, the fire that prompted the evacuation of 500 homes was estimated to be 50 percent contained, thanks in part to rain showers from the storm packing winds that gusted in excess of 100 mph over Sierra ridgetops early Friday.
The El Dorado County sheriff ordered 500 homes evacuated between Emerald Bay and South Lake Tahoe, California. That fire has burned about 200 acres and forced the closure of part of California Highway 89.
Several elementary schools, a high school and the Redfield campus of the University of Nevada, Reno were closed.
Firefighters had all but snuffed out another fire that destroyed at least one structure and had temporarily closed the Mount Rose Highway connecting Reno to Lake Tahoe.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.