Cooler temps, calmer wind help to stop Sierra blaze
June 6, 2007
COLEVILLE, Calif. (AP) – Evacuations were lifted and residents of this small town on the eastern Sierra were allowed to return to their homes Wednesday, a day after a fire that was nearly contained was rekindled by strong wind.
About 200 people were evacuated Tuesday when embers flared and flames whipped by 65 mph wind gusts threatened two schools, the post office and nearby homes, officials said. About 70 people from a U.S. Marine Corps housing complex north of town also were evacuated but allowed to return Wednesday.
A 40-mile stretch of U.S. 395, a key highway along the Sierra front, was shut down but also reopened Wednesday, though traffic was detoured in the immediate burn area.
Fire spokesman Mark Struble said the fire covered about 1,400 acres – roughly 2 square miles – and was 25 percent contained at midday. No homes were lost, but two outbuildings were destroyed.
Strong winds that grounded air tankers and helicopters Tuesday eased overnight, allowing for an aerial assault to begin after daybreak. Two single-engine tankers were fighting the fire with retardant, and two helicopters were making water drops.
The same cold front that fueled the fire on Tuesday brought colder temperatures and some moisture overnight. Some areas in the surrounding foothills even had a dusting of snow. “It was 37 degrees at dawn,” Struble said Wednesday. “Once that front blew through, the winds shifted around more out the north, and started pushing the fire back into itself.”
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The Larson fire was sparked by lightning on Friday. It was nearly contained before it roared back to life Tuesday and spread through scrub pines, sagebrush and juniper.
Separate blaze in Carson City
The firefighting resources on hand for the Larson fire came in handy Wednesday when a separate blaze broke out on the east side of Carson City.
The Sedge fire burned about 10 acres before it was contained at about 5 p.m.
“They had done their job at Larson and were sitting on the ramp here. All of the sudden we heard the call for Sedge and it was only a couple minutes and I heard those big engines,” Struble said. “Once they go wheels up, it’s only about four minutes til they were there. We literally had the resources in our back pocket to paint that fire pink right away. That isn’t always normal.”
A federal Type I management team was summoned Tuesday, and crews arrived throughout the night.
“We have a lot of resources out there,” Struble said. “There are over 600 on the ground out there right now; 400 are on hand crews and they’re all digging line as we speak.”
Though the forecast called for breezy conditions to continue, Struble said a shift in the wind would help firefighters.
“They can afford to be much more aggressive today,” he said. “We really don’t think it’s going to be as gusty or erratic as it was yesterday.”
Six bulldozers also were working to cut fire breaks.
— The Nevada Appeal contributed to this report.