Topaz Lodge saved from Gate fire |

Topaz Lodge saved from Gate fire

Samantha Fredrickson, Appeal Staff Writer
Ruhenstroth volunteer firefighter Greg Marenco watches a hillside as several backfires burn along 395. The fires were started to allow a larger fire break for when the fire did reach the highway. However, the fire turned due East Monday afternoon and hit 395 just south of were the back fires had been started still leaving homes and more land in danger. photo by Brian Corley

COLEVILLE — Flames from the 7,200-acre Gate Complex fire jumped Highway 395 Monday afternoon near Topaz Lodge, but firefighters were able to put out the blaze on the east side of the highway before any structures were damaged.

A mobile home park next to the lodge was threatened momentarily, but firefighters stopped the flames and contained the fire to the west side of the highway, said Fire Information Officer Tom Crawford.

“It was right on top of the structures at Topaz Lodge,” he said. “But no structures were lost.”

The Topaz Lodge and the residents around Topaz Lake were evacuated Monday afternoon, before the fire jumped the highway.

The Gate Complex fire is 10 percent contained and has cost $950,000. There is no estimated time for containment.

The Gate Complex is made up of three separate fires which began Friday. The Slinkard fire, which makes up most of the complex, is burning from Slinkard Valley near Highway 89 to the Topaz Lodge on Highway 395. The other fires are the Coleville fire, which is burning one mile west of Coleville High School, and the Gate fire, which is three miles south of Coleville.

All three were caused by lightning.

Highways 395 and 89 were closed near the fire. Highway 89 over Monitor Pass is closed. Highway 395 is closed from Holbrook Junction to Highway 89.

Crawford said the roads would be closed for at least one week, because the flames are burning close to the highways. Guard rails were destroyed along Highway 395.

The Coleville and Gate fires moved slowly Monday, but the Slinkard fire is spreading in all directions, which makes it hard to contain, Crawford said.

Better mapping of the fire reduced the number of acres affected from 10,560 to 7,200.

There are 614 firefighters on the scene, and a management team from Oregon is expected to take control of the Gate fire complex tonight.

One barn and one outbuilding have been damaged. There are no structures in immediate danger.

Meteorologist Jon Corey said winds between 15 and 25 mph were expected today.

“It’s our typical afternoon breeze,” he said. “But if you’re fighting a fire you want less than that.”

He said there was a chance of more thunderstorms in the area Wednesday.

Monday there was no power and no phone lines in Coleville and Walker, making it very difficult for fire officials to get information to the public.

Fire information officers at the Coleville School command post were operating with only one satellite telephone and no computers.

Crawford said the command post would be moved to Douglas high school today.

Evacuation centers have been set up at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School in Gardnerville and the community center in Bridgeport. Crawford said 150 people have evacuated.

There are also several other fires burning in the area, also caused by lightning.

— The Buckeye fire is burning 15 miles east of Gardnerville. It has burned 850 acres and is 55 percent contained. Full containment is expected today. There are 82 firefighters on the scene.

— The Pony Express fire, 55 miles east of Fallon, has burned 800 acres. Fire information officer Jack Stafford said the fire began Sunday, but firefighters were not aware of it until Monday afternoon. There are eight smoke jumpers and one bulldozer battling the fire.

— The Elsworth Fire has destroyed 1,200 acres and is burning 55 miles southeast of Fallon. It is 10 percent contained and there are 82 firefighters on the fire.

— The Pan fire, 12 miles north of Bridgeport, has burned 506 acres. There are 193 firefighters on the fire and it is 70 percent contained.

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