Topaz Ranch Estates wildfire burns 19 structures
May 23, 2012
A fast-moving wildland fire, whipped up by 50 mph winds, tore through 4,400 acres and destroyed two homes and 17 outbuildings Tuesday in Topaz Ranch Estates.
No injuries were reported, and a hiker was rescued from the area by a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy after he became trapped.
Gov. Brian Sandoval said he had not declared a state of emergency but has asked for federal assistance grants for fire victims.
“We’ll do whatever it takes,” he said during an evening briefing at the fire command post in southern Douglas County. “We’re throwing everything we have at this.”
As of 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, the fire was nowhere near containment.
More than 450 personnel were using three air tankers, three helicopters, four bulldozers, 13 hand crews and several engines and water tenders. Officials have requested more helicopters and air tankers to help fight the fire.
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“Luckily the fire is kind of moving back up into the hills away from homes, but the wind shifts around here and could move back down,” said Sgt. Jim Halsey, spokesman for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Halsey said it had burned more than 5 square miles of mostly sage brush and juniper.
Most of the damage was centered around Slate, Sandstone and Pinenut Way. Firefighters responded from agencies of East Fire and Paramedic Districts, Tahoe-Douglas Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Division of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, Carson City, Lyon County, Mono County, Alpine County and Reno-Truckee Fire.
Betty Hathaway, 52, said that it started behind her home in the foothills of the Pine Nut mountains and that a house two doors down “completely burned down.”
“It was just a wall of fire,” she said. “It is unbelievable my house did not burn down.”
The fire may have started when a controlled burn Sunday afternoon rekindled, according to Halsey.
The fire was burning toward the northeast in the hills behind Topaz Ranch Estates. Hand crews and bulldozers were used to cut a firebreak between the fire and the homes in the area along Sandstone Drive.
Residents were asked to voluntarily evacuate to the Topaz Ranch Estates Community Center.
Large animals were evacuated to the Douglas County Fairgrounds on Pine Nut Road in Gardnerville. Pets were evacuated to the Douglas County Animal Shelter, which is across Pine Nut Road from the Fairgrounds.
Gene Field was among those who stood ready to evacuate if necessary. He saw the smoke from about 20 miles away when he got off work in Gardnerville and rushed home to help his wife, Janet, gather up personal belongings.
“We packed some of our stuff and put that in the back of our truck. It’s there just in case,” Field said.
A hiker called 911 to report he was trapped in the hills near the Lyon-Douglas county line about 3:30 p.m. He was able to reach his car, where he sought shelter amid flames and heavy smoke, before a deputy found him about 4 p.m. and escorted him to safety.
Halsey said a controlled burn in the area was extinguished Monday, but “it is believed to have rekindled.” He said the cause remained under investigation.