Lightning Sparks Nevada Wildfires

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Lightning touched off a series of wildfires across hundreds of acres on the edge of Reno on Wednesday, sending up large plumes of smoke just west of the city but posing no immediate threat to homes.

At least 650 acres of sagebrush and scrub pines had burned in the two biggest of four fires at the base of Peavine Peak near Interstate 80, Forest Service officials said.

The fire, called the Verdi complex, burned near subdivisions close to Verdi near the California-Nevada line, but no evacuations were ordered. Authorities urged people to stay away from the area to avoid hampering fire crews.

``There were quite a number of lightning strikes. We can see the flames from our pro shop,'' said Dan Rohn, an assistant at Northgate Golf Club on the northwest side of Reno.

Subdivision resident Mark Tepper said his wife telephoned to say the flames were right behind their house.

``We started loading up clothing and all my tools and stuff in case I had to rebuild,'' he said.

Smoke was visible from more than 20 miles away.

Aircraft dropped retardant on the flames as scores of fire trucks and tankers responded on the ground. Other fire engines stood by to protect homes.

About 200 firefighters from state, local and federal agencies were battling the blazes.

``They are sending as much equipment as they can,'' Forest Service spokeswoman Christie Kalkowski said.

The fire smoldered within several hundred yards of about 50 homes but never posed any immediate danger to the structures, she said.

``It is a really slow, creeping fire,'' Kalkowski said.

``They are hitting it hard with the retardant and it has cooled off significantly so it is looking good right now,'' she said.

``Up at the top ridges, they have some active flames. But down on the lower part toward the homes it is pretty much going out. It is running out of fuel,'' she said.

Officials said the larger of the two fires was 20 percent contained at 400 acres. A smaller one on Peavine - the Look Out fire - was burning vigorously at dusk after blackening at least 250 acres.

The wind was driving those flames up hill and there was no estimate of the containment level Wednesday night, fire officials said.

On the scene were two heavy air tankers from the California Division of Forestry that hold 800 to 1,200 gallons of retardant and two single-engine air tankers from the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center in Minden that hold 800 gallons, she said.

Lightning strikes touched off a handful of smaller fires from Reno to Carson City.

Meanwhile, crews were mopping up the 3,100-acre Cole complex near Coleville, Calif.

The largest of the fires around Coleville was sparked by lightning Friday. A smaller one began Monday when embers from a cooking fire blew into nearby brush. That fire threatened a Marine Corps housing compound and closed U.S. 395 for almost a day.