Wildfire destroys multiple Reno homes; hundreds threatened

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A fire is seen burning in the Caughlin Ranch area of Reno, Nev., on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. Firefighters are battling a wildfire in southwest Reno that is threatening some homes in dangerously high winds. Dozens of residences were being evacuated on the edge of the Sierra foothills. (Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP)

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A fast-moving wildfire driven by strong winds destroyed several homes in a Reno neighborhood Tuesday and forced the evacuation of hundreds more on the edge of the Sierra Nevada foothills, one of several blazes burning near the Nevada-California border.

As many as 500 homes could be threatened by the blaze that grew to more than two square miles within hours of igniting in brush above the neighborhood, Reno Fire Chief David Cochran said. He said “multiple” homes had been lost, but he didn’t know how many.

The Reno Gazette Journal reported that one of its photographers had seen at least five homes burn.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, and the cause of the fire was under investigation.

Winds gusting over 50 mph (80 kph) drove the flames but later subsided and rain was in the forecast Tuesday night.

Cochran said teams were responding from fire departments in Reno and California to help battle the blaze through the night.

“This is an extremely dynamic situation,” he said. “Precipitation is expected, but we’re not relying on that. We are working to protect homes to the extent that we can.”

Anita Noble of Reno was spraying down a hillside with a garden hose near her daughter’s home, telling KOLO-TV that she “could have been the one to save my daughter’s house and the neighbor’s house.”

“We were about ready to leave, and I saw a bunch of smoke, and my daughter said it was coming from up in the canyon, and it wasn’t, it was right below the ravine,” Noble said. “And it was within 10 yards from her property line, so I got the hose and I started spraying. And it helped.”

Mayor Hillary Schieve signed a local emergency declaration and pleaded with residents to stay out of the area. Police Chief Jason Soto said he was increasing patrols in evacuated neighborhoods to help protect homes and businesses.

Authorities cut power to about 7,000 customers as a precaution, and several roads were closed.

Police assisted with evacuations, and the Red Cross set up an emergency shelter at the Washoe County senior center.

Meanwhile, crews north of Reno were battling a brush fire that broke out along the California-Nevada line and has forced the closure of State Highway 70 near Vinton and Chilcoot, California. Authorities said some structures were threatened.

Another fire about 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the south exploded in size after breaking out around noon Tuesday in California’s Mono County near the Nevada border. Evacuation orders were issued for the tiny mountain community of Walker and other nearby towns as wind-whipped flames churned through trees and dry brush.

The wind was blowing in ahead of a Sierra storm that the National Weather Service said was more powerful than one that carried winds gusting in excess of 100 mph (160 kph) last Friday.

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