Cooler temps, calmer winds, aid firefighters near Reno
RENO, Nev. (AP) – Cooler temperatures, cloudy skies and calmer winds gave firefighters added relief Monday as they continued working to corral a stubborn forest fire west of Reno.
The 14,500-acre Martis fire, which has been burning for a week in the timbered Sierra Nevada range between Reno and Truckee, Calif., was 60 percent contained.
”It hasn’t grown and it may actually shrink,” said fire spokeswoman Debby Broback. ”We kind of expected it to burn up to our lines, but it hasn’t done that.”
Full containment is estimated Saturday. So far, costs total $11.4 million.
High temperatures Monday were nearly 20 degrees cooler than the same time last week. And a chance of rain through midweek, however slight, added to firefighters’ optimism that this season’s first major fire in the West could be snuffed by week’s end.
At the height of the blaze, about 3,000 firefighters from as far away as Montana and Idaho helped battle the flames that at one point shut down Interstate 80 and a major rail line, threatened homes near Hirschdale, Calif., and cloaked Reno in a smoky haze for much of last week.
The fire did most of its damage the first day, consuming 12,000 acres before the flames headed into the rugged Mount Rose Wilderness Area southwest of Reno.
Firefighters were able to keep the blaze from spreading over the weekend, despite winds gusting to 55 mph along the ridgetops.
”The fire is still active,” said Tricia Humpherys, another fire information officer. ”But vegetation is sparse and there’s a lot of rock up there. It’s not running and making a real mad dash like before.”
About 400 firefighters were sent home Sunday and more were being released Monday.
The Martis fire broke out June 17 in the same spot east of Truckee where California Division of Forestry crews put out a small blaze the day before. It was believed to be the site of an illicit marijuana farm.
Investigators say the Martis fire might have been rekindled from a burning root that wasn’t completely extinguished by fire crews.
But they say it’s also possible the fire might have been caused by a marijuana farmer who returned to the site or by itinerant campers.
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