2,500 battle Martis blaze
RENO – Hundreds of fire crews tried to contain a fire Monday that halted interstate traffic over the weekend.
The Martis fire, whipped by winds to 35 mph, exploded to 12,000 acres in just a few hours Sunday afternoon and surpassed 17,000 acres Monday. About 2,500 firefighters were aided by 10 air tankers and nine helicopters.
Travel between Reno and Truckee was halted Sunday as smoke forced the closure of Interstate 80 and flames damaged two train trestles on the intercontinental rail line. Rail service and interstate travel resumed Monday.
Residents returned to their homes Sunday night in Floriston, Calif., 30 miles southwest of Reno, after they evacuated when flames moved within 30 yards of some of its 42 homes.
The fire began about 10 miles east of Truckee and spread generally eastward along I-80 toward the Reno area. It burned to within seven miles of Reno Sunday night.
Heavy smoke produced a fog-like haze in Reno, where health officials urged people to stay indoors. Smoke drifted 50 miles to the south through Carson City and Minden and 75 miles east to Fallon.
As of Monday night, there were no mandatory evacuations in the Truckee area. There was an advisory evacuation for Thomas Creek, southwest of Reno.
Motorists along I-80 were cautioned to watch for boulders loosened by the fire’s heat, said California Department of Forestry spokesman Len Morgan. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Monday’s winds proved both a boon and a bane for fire crews, feeding the fire with oxygen but also clearing the dense smoke that hampered Sunday’s air attack.
“When the wind kicks up, it’s not so heavy that they can’t fly, but the air tankers can see their targets more clearly,” said Laura Williams, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service from the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
Adding to fire officials’ concern is a weather front expected to hit the area Friday. Temperatures are expected to drop, but projected winds as fast as 30 mph could help fan the flames.
“It’s basically a sleeping giant,” said Tim Thompson, Marin County Fire Department captain, on site as a member of the CDF Management Team. “If this thing is still going Friday or Saturday, it’s going to show us what it did yesterday.”
As crews worked to contain the blaze, clouds of smoke pushed by southwesterly winds poured into Nevada. In Reno, particulate levels are as high as 20 times normal.
“We are placing current conditions in the unhealthful category. That means people should not be outside at all,” said Noel Bonderson, air quality supervisor of Washoe County.
– The Tribune News Service contributed to this report.
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