Crews continue to gain ground on forest fire |

Crews continue to gain ground on forest fire

RENO, Nev. (AP) – Fire crews completed a line around 40 percent of the 14,500-acre Martis forest fire west of Reno on Thursday with the most inaccessible 60 percent to go – and the threat of gusty winds a day away.

Forecasters are calling for winds from the southwest and cooler weather late today and into the weekend as a system moves in. The fire was moving in a northeasterly direction.

The flames had moved south Tuesday night and Wednesday, causing concern that they could push toward Incline Village and the Lake Tahoe Basin.

”It’s not a major threat at this time, but it is a thing to plan for,” said Incline Village Fire Chief Jim Linardos. ”We’re working off Mother Nature’s game plan right now.”

The fire bosses had a game plan of their own on Thursday.

While most of the 2,800 people fighting the fire worked close to the flames, some of the 31 bulldozers and 11 air tankers were cutting broad fire lines and dropping retardant in hopes of stopping the blaze if it made a run toward Tahoe or the 500 or so suburban Reno homes closest to the front.

”We’re continuing to build and expand on the control lines, just beef them up,” fire information officer Gary Brittner said.

The fire, driven by 35 mph winds, exploded on Sunday, raging through 2,000 acres an hour at times. Calm winds and the amount of people and machines on the lines since then have slowed the advance of the blaze.

On Thursday, crews cutting the containment line were hampered by the nearly inaccessible Mount Rose Wilderness Area abutting the 10,776-foot peak south of Reno.

Adding to their misery, Reno soared to a record high on Thursday, hitting 100 for the first time this year. The previous record was 99, set in 1961.

Investigators, meanwhile, were closer to citing a cause for the fire. Fire information officer Bernie Paul said evidence in the area suggested the blaze started with an escaped campfire at an illicit marijuana farm.

That fire was reported at 7 a.m. June 16, the day before the Martis fire started. Truckee firefighters spent 3 1/2 hours putting out the small fire on Forest Service land, and also cut a hand line around the perimeter of the fire.

“Firefighters believed the fire was completely out,” Paul said. “But that doesn’t rule out an ember that was outside of the perimeter line.” A CDF statement said the firefighters acted “consistent with training and policy.”

Investigators are also looking into the possibility that someone returned to the site of the fire after it had been extinguished and before the Martis fire was reported at 12:04 p.m. June 17.

– The Tribune News Service contributed to this report.

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