Thunderstorms loom with a hint of welcome rain
RENO (AP) – Thunderstorms loom in western Nevada’s forecast into the weekend, but on Wednesday the likelihood of rain with possible heavy showers helped offset the threat of lightning.
Rain is credited with helping fire crews surround the two largest of a dozen or so fires triggered by lightning Tuesday in western Nevada. Additional blazes were burning thousands of acres around Wells in Elko County.
One blaze scorched more than 150 acres of brush and timber north of Genoa, west of Minden, and threatened two multimillion-dollar homes before the skies opened up.
”We were pretty fortunate,” Douglas County Fire Chief Steve Eisele said. ”We had a thunder cell move through that dumped some rain.”
More rain was expected on Wednesday across drought-parched western Nevada, which was under a flash flood watch until 9 p.m.
On Tuesday, hundreds of lightning strikes peppered the northern part of the state. One ignited a 60-acre fire that blackened a hillside near the exclusive Caughlin Ranch area in southwest Reno which also was tempered by showers.
Marty Scheuerman, chief of operations for the city of Reno fire department, said the 125 personnel deployed on the lines was a large commitment, considering the number of fires throughout the day.
”We had 10 other alarms going on at the same time as this one,” he said. ”From Carson to Palomino there were only one or two units not assigned.”
Four firefighters on a 4-wheel-drive brush truck with a broken drive shaft above Caughlin Ranch had to create space with a backfire as the blaze approached them, said Battalion Chief Tom Donnelly. By burning up the fuel between them and the fire, the crew escaped and the truck was saved.
Scheuerman said extremely dry fuel conditions made for more intense fighting.
”Real erratic, real extreme,” he said of the fire. ”Control actions we would normally take to hold a fire won’t hold it.”
The fire made a run toward McCarran Boulevard, prompting police to shut down the thoroughfare for an hour when onlookers clogged the road.
”We had all these people lined up on McCarran watching the fire come down the hill at them,” Reno police Lt. Bill Bowen said.
The fire stayed about 1,000 yards away from the freeway.
Well to the east, the band of storms that swept across northern Nevada ignited at least 30 fires ranging from a few acres to a few thousand in Elko County, according to Elko Interagency Fire public information officer Melissa Peterson.
She said the largest was the so-called Isolated Fire, which had blackened between 3,000 and 5,000 acres near Wells.
Six other fires ranging in size from 500 acres to 2,000 acres also were burning in remote regions around Wells.
Lightning strikes also caused scattered power outages around Reno and in Carson City and Douglas County. Sierra Pacific Power spokesman Karl Walquist said power was restored by 8 p.m.
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