Published July 09, 2013
LAS VEGAS – Two large Nevada wildfires advanced Tuesday through mountain areas near Las Vegas and southwest of Reno, while firefighters added resources and began looking to the weather to help quell flames.
Fifty firefighters were added to the effort at the Carpenter 1 Fire on Mount Charleston northwest of Las Vegas, bringing to more than 800 the number of personnel battling the blaze identified as the top priority in the West, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Jay Nichols said.
"We've got a fire running from 11,000 feet to about 5,000 feet," Nichols said of the elevation of the blaze sparked by lightning July 1 and still just 15 percent contained eight days later.
It's burning in pinion, juniper and bristlecone pine forest in rugged territory covering more than 30 square miles and continues to threaten about 400 homes. More than 500 residents and another 98 teenagers at a youth correctional camp have been evacuated since the weekend.
"It's dry," Nichols said. "We've got torching trees and spotting fire. We're being extremely careful and monitoring the safety of firefighters and the public."
In northern Nevada, the Bison fire grew Monday to 40 square miles in the Pine Nut Mountains near Gardnerville and Carson City. Fire spokeswoman Lisa Ross said one of the 720 firefighters on the lines suffered a knee injury. Containment was reported at 25 percent.
Fires were also burning across the West in California, where 100 mountain cabins were destroyed in San Diego County, and also in Alaska, Idaho and Arizona, where a memorial service is being held Tuesday for 19 firefighters killed in a wildfire north of Phoenix.
In Nevada, 19 elite Hotshot crews and 44 engine companies were battling the Carpenter 1 Fire some 25 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nichols said.
Smoke from the fire created a towering white cloud that stretched northeast, visible from downtown. The Clark County Department of Air Quality issued a health advisory that officials said would remain in effect through Sunday.
No injuries were reported in the southern Nevada fire that started July 1 on the west side of Mount Charleston near Pahrump and quickly spread east into rugged terrain reachable only on foot. Officials said Monday that some $2.4 million had already been spent fighting the fire.
Mount Charleston is a popular weekend getaway, where summer temperatures can be 15 to 20 degrees cooler than in Las Vegas, which has sizzled in the triple digits for more than 10 days.
More than 400 homes in Trout, Kyle, Lee, Harris Springs and Lovell canyons were evacuated during the weekend, along with a Clark County-run youth correctional camp that houses 98 teenagers at a mountain elevation of almost 8,500 feet above sea level. State highways 156 and 157 were closed into the canyons, and evacuation shelters were set up at schools in Las Vegas and Pahrump.
Crews were also working to protect about 100 non-residential structures including barns, sheds and corrals, Nichols said.
Daytime high temperatures on the mountain were expected to decrease over the next few days after peaking at 90 degrees on Saturday, but firefighters were still hampered by gusty winds and humidity levels in the single digits.
The Bison Fire in northern Nevada, which straddles the Douglas and Lyon county lines, nearly doubled in size Monday from a day earlier as it burned through tinder-dry brush, dead trees and pinion-juniper forests. By afternoon the fire was estimated at more than 27 square miles.
The mountain range also stretches into Carson City. Late in the day, fire officials closed popular back-country roads leading from the state capital into the mountains because of the fire's path.
No homes have been lost since the blaze broke out July 4, but officials said several old structures burned in the Slater Mine area.
More than 700 firefighters battled gusty winds, low humidity and temperatures in the 90s, Ross said.
Associated Press writer Sandra Chereb in Carson City contributed to this report.
Find Ken Ritter on Twitter: http://twitter.com/krttr