RENO, Nev. – Two of the top firefighting teams in the nation, helped by more favorable weather conditions, led the attack from the air and the ground in fire-plagued Nevada, where wildland fires have blackened more than 218 square miles from the California line east nearly to Utah.
As a result of scattered showers, lower temperatures and higher humidities, the 5,000-acre Lineham fire, which earlier forced people from their homes around Carson City, was in mopup Thursday with just two dozen people monitoring it.
Progress also was reported at the 2,000-acre Balls Canyon Fire near Bordertown northwest of Reno, with crews managing to create lines around at least 60 percent of the fire.
"The lines are pretty well holding," said Kathy Jo Pollock, a spokeswoman for the fire in Carson City.
"We haven't had any troubles today at all," she said Wednesday.
But wind caused flames from the Virginia Fire southwest of Fernley High School to rocket through grass on Wednesday, increasing the amount of scorched ground from 400 to 2,500 acres. The fire reached the southern edge of Reno-Fernley Raceway, forcing closure of U.S. 95A between Fernley and Silver Springs for a couple of hours Wednesday afternoon.
In eastern Nevada, the Suzie Fire was reported 20 percent contained at 78,300 acres.
A change in the weather and some heavy equipment from the Nevada Department of Transportation helped, said Richard Brown, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
"I think we made some progress. The weather helped a lot," he said.
Mopping up was under way on the 9,600-acre Elburz Fire 10 miles northeast of Elko, while the Sneekee Fire, 35 miles southwest of Elko, was 50 percent contained at 7,200 acres, Brown said.
One federal Type I incident management team moved in to battle the 8,000-acre Sierra-Tahoe complex of fires in western Nevada near Reno and Carson City, and another team took command of the huge Suzie fire.
In all, some 140,000 square miles of the state have been charred since lightning began sparking dozens of fires over the weekend. Of the 33 major large fires burning in the United States, 10 are in Nevada.
Three consecutive days of temperatures in the 90s, low humidity and dry lightning eased on Wednesday as a wet West Coast system pushed through.
"We've got a lot of cloud cover, the humidity has come up and the temperatures are a lot cooler," Pollock said. "Any type of winds will still be a concern for us."
About 30 miles east of Reno, a growing wildfire in Lyon County forced the Nevada Highway Patrol to shut down a 15-mile stretch of Highway 95A connecting Fernley to Silver Springs at U.S. 50 because the 400-acre Virginia fire was burning toward the highway and the Fernley-Reno Raceway, Lyon County Sheriff's Capt. Jeff Page said.
Authorities also closed Nevada 447 at Nixon on the south end of Pyramid Lake about 15 miles north of Interstate 80 after strong winds kicked up and the Poito fire escaped control lines about the same time.
Two air tankers were immediately reassigned to that fire, which had burned about 150 acres near Empire about 90 miles north of Reno.
No injuries have been reported and no structures have burned in any of Nevada's fires, but there have been a number of close calls, including fires that threatened homes Monday in Palomino Valley and Lemmon Valley on the outskirts of Reno.
Fire officials declared the Sage fire fully contained Wednesday at 20,000 acres northwest of Lovelock in north-central Nevada. But a new blaze, the North Antelope fire southeast of Midas, was burning out of control and had scorched an estimated 5,000 acres.
The 7,700-acre Sherwood fire was 70 percent contained southwest of Ely in the Grant Range, about 15 miles north of the ghost town Adaven, which is Nevada spelled backward.
About 50 miles north of Las Vegas, a 9,000-acre fire was burning in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, but officials said crews were not actively fighting it because it was not threatening any structures.