Firefighters, Winds Steer Nevada Wildfire Away From Homes

July 27, 2004
Waves of firefighters and favorable breezes helped steer a wildfire away from a wooded canyon community 35 miles from Las Vegas on Tuesday.
MOUNT CHARLESTON, Nev. (AP) -- Waves of firefighters and favorable breezes helped steer a wildfire away from a wooded canyon community 35 miles from Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Fire officials reported the 1,500-acre blaze was 20 percent contained, and no new evacuations were ordered and no structures threatened.

``It's still burning pretty good where the wind is pushing it in the northwest direction,'' said Robbie McAboy, U.S. Forest Service fire spokeswoman.

The day before Girl Scouts and youth correctional facility inmates were evacuated from mountaintop camps and homeowners were ordered out of about 15 homes in an enclave about a mile and a half from fire lines. About half the 900 residents of Kyle Canyon left voluntarily Monday, authorities said.

A convoy of firefighters from California rolled in Tuesday morning to join about 120 federal, state and local firefighters who worked to stop the Robber's Fire from cresting a ridge and burning toward about 350 homes in the canyon.

``This canyon here is our biggest concern,'' said fire boss Mike Dondero, pointing on a map to the community as he briefed federal Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, Gov. Kenny Guinn and Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., at Guinn's Las Vegas office.

``It's hot and dry and the winds are squirrelly,'' Dondero said.

Winds generally pushed flames into canyons of pinyon, juniper, sagebrush and pine, said Dondero, Carson City-based fire management officer for Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

The number of firefighters could top 800, he said, with the arrival of fire crews from California, Idaho, Utah, Nevada and other Western states.

Dondero said firefighters working the steep rocky terrain were aided by three helicopters, a single-engine tanker and two heavy bombers hauling fire retardant from Cedar City, Utah, a 35-minute flight away.

``They've been dropping that red stuff on it and pouring water on it,'' said Claudia ``Tookie'' Reed, a 21-year resident of the canyon. ``They're trying to keep it at the ridge so it won't spread our way.''

Reed guessed the fire was three miles from her home and said she packed valuables.

``If they tell us to evacuate, we're out of here, no questions asked,'' she said about her and her dog, Corki.

Conne Kaczmarek, a clerk at the Mount Charleston Hotel, said that after some harrowing hours Monday, the firefighting effort appeared to be going well.

``There's light smoke, and helicopters with water bags are going over,'' she said from the 66-room lodge about two miles from where a truck crashed on state Highway 158 near the historic Robber's Roost hideout and sparked the blaze Monday.

Kaczmarek said the hotel had one remaining paying guest and opened the rest of its rooms to firefighters.

``They come, they eat, they sleep and they pretty much go back out,'' she said. ``They're saving us. They're doing us a huge, huge service.''

Fire officials said it could be a week or more before the fire is fully contained and extinguished. Bob Vaught, Humboldt-Toiyabe forest supervisor, projected the cost of fighting the blaze on federal land at $1.5 million.

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