Wildfire near Vegas now 80% contained | NevadaAppeal.com

Wildfire near Vegas now 80% contained

Ken Ritter
The Associated Press
Lee Canyon resident JaeAnn Bernhardt hugs Metropolitan Police volunteer Linda Fleming, left, while Lauren Olson looks on at the Lee Canyon check point on July 12, 2013. Residents were returning home Monday, July 15, 2013 after more than a week evacuated from Mount Charleston hamlets northwest of Las Vegas, where authorities were reporting 70 percent containment of a huge wildfire that has been burning since July 1. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jeff Scheid)
AP | Las Vegas Review-Journal

LAS VEGAS — A sweeping wildfire that threatened mountain homes near Las Vegas was 80 percent contained, while crews prepared Tuesday to allow a final wave of residents back to neighborhoods evacuated 11 days ago.

More than 800 personnel remained on the 43.6-square-mile Carpenter 1 blaze, working in daytime temperatures rising into the 70s and 80s and humidity levels dropping to the teens, fire spokesman Larry Helmerick said.

They were snuffing out hot spots in Kyle Canyon where people were due to return today to the Old Town, Rainbow and Echo hamlets.

“The weather shouldn’t be a problem for us now,” Helmerick said Tuesday. “We’re finding what’s left of the hot spots and mopping up so that residents, when they return home, won’t see any smoke. That’s part of the plan.”

No new injuries have been reported and no new structures have been damaged since a support crew member was overcome by heat last week and flames overran a remote resort in Prospect Springs. A ranch lodge, a cabin, two sheds, an outhouse and a nearby commercial building were destroyed.

More than 500 people were evacuated July 5 while the fire roared through 27,881 acres of pinyon, juniper and bristlecone pine forest in steep terrain on the west, south and east sides of Mount Charleston about 25 miles northwest of downtown Las Vegas.

The blaze was sparked by lightning July 1 in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.

It generated so much smoke at its height that Las Vegas was blanketed by a thick campfire smell as it sweltered in a heat wave, and county officials issued an advisory for people with respiratory ailments to stay indoors.

Stopping the fire took an army of firefighters that peaked at nearly 1,400, and cost $16.5 million to date. Federal Emergency Management Agency funds have been promised to reimburse Nevada for up to 75 percent of firefighting costs.

Authorities have allowed residents of the Trout, Lovell and Lee canyon areas to return home in stages during the last several days.

Meanwhile, firefighters on Tuesday were still working to prevent flames from advancing south toward the scenic Red Rock National Conservation Area, just 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip.

In the Kyle Canyon area above Cathedral rock, fire managers planned to let the fire burn itself out after determining the terrain was too steep for safe firefighting operations.

The Kyle Canyon area will remain closed to the public until later this week, Helmerick said.