Published Wednesday, July 10, 2013 | 12:10 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, July 10, 2013 | 8:45 a.m.
Public meetings now scheduled daily
- Agencies fighting the Mount Charleston wildfire have decided to conduct daily meetings to update the more than 500 evacuees chased from their homes on the mountain. The meetings will be at 5:30 p.m. at the Centennial High School auditorium. The school, 10200 W. Centennial Pkwy., is serving as an incident command center for the federal, state and local agencies fighting the fire.
The Mount Charleston wildfire burned six structures Tuesday night in Prospect Ranch as the fire continued its path of destruction.
After charring nearly 40 square miles of the mountain, the fire reached its first buildings in the Harris Springs area, burning one commercial building and five other structures, officials said.
Rodney Giles, who has refused to leave his home on Mount Charleston, reported that a house with a garage and a couple cabins next to it burned in Harris Springs.
Giles said he heard about the incident and was shown photos by his neighbor, who is a volunteer firefighter.
Officials could not confirm Wednesday if any of the structures were residences.
One of the structures that burned was a metal outbuilding in Prospect Ranch, about five miles to the southheast of the housing developments in Kyle Canyon.
The commercial farm building had been treated with fire retardant but couldn't stand up to the heavy flames, said Rich Harvey, incident commander for the Great Basin Incident Command team.
One official said he thought the building was in an isolated spot and had been used to store farming equipment or hay.
Firefighters faced a tough adversary Tuesday — a 20 mph southwest wind that was gusting to 30 mph.
The winds swept the wildfire northeast into another 5,000 acres on Tuesday afternoon, with flames jumping from the treeline south of the main road on the mountain, Kyle Canyon Road, into the desert terrain.
"It got hot. It got windy. It got crazy," Harvey told a gathering of evacuated residents Tuesday night at Centennial High School. "We were chasing it all day long."
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, who was briefed Saturday by the head of the U.S. Forest Service in Nevada, said the fire has gotten much worse since then. "Progress made to contain the blaze on Monday was erased on Tuesday, as the fire jumped a road and spread to new forest and desert land," he said.
"We thought residents would be able to return to their homes in Kyle Canyon yesterday, but unfortunately the fire has spread," Reid said Wednesday. "I hope they’ll be able to return to their homes soon...The smoke can be seen from every part of the Las Vegas Valley. And I’ve heard from people in Nevada who have seen ash falling from the sky like snow."
Reid said he would continue to monitor fires burning in Nevada and would reach out to Gov. Brian Sandoval to offer assistance and ensure that federal resources are made available to support local officials and fire crews.
Tuesday's spread of the wildfire reduced the containment from 15 to 10 percent. The fire area grew about 20 percent, to about 25,000 acres.
However, there was some good news — fire crews had no new incidents in the residential areas in Kyle Canyon, Lee, Lovell and Trout canyons, Harvey said, getting cheers and applause from evacuees who were at the meeting. There are about 500 homes and other structures on the mountain.
At midafternoon Tuesday, the fire being pushed by the high winds jumped from south to north over Kyle Canyon Road near the 6 mile marker point, then began fanning out and setting desert plant life aflame, including Joshua trees and desert shrubs.
The winds were pushing the fire to the northeast at a rate of almost three-quarters of a mile per hour, Harvey said.
"It's pretty hard to chase in that country by guys with shovels and boots," he said.
However, Harvey said that hitting the flatter terrain made it easier to stop the spread. Fire crews received permission from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to use bulldozers to plow up ground to create fire breaks and contain the spread, he said.
Bill Dunkelberger, who manages the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, said he approved the use of the bulldozers in fighting the fire, explaining he didn't want to put any constraints on fire crews.
Harvey said the fire got no farther than a quarter-mile beyond the roadway and was stopped by the plowed terrain.
Wetter weather is moving into the area on Thursday and Friday, bringing the possibility of rain, which should help firefighters in their efforts, he said.
"I hope it rains, the sun goes away and the winds die down," he said.
Deputy Fire Chief Eric Newman, of the Clark County Fire Department, told the residents that firefighters were treating their homes with water and were moving flammable outdoor furniture to make sure they didn't catch fire.
Newman made an appeal of the evacuees to let him know if their homes had ammunition stored in them, so firefighters could be cautious if the fire did move closer to their homes.
"We just wanted to have some type of contingency for that," he said.
Metro Police Capt. Jason Letkiewicz told the residents that a plan was being developed to get residents back into their homes as soon as it was safe. Letkiewicz urged the residents to be patient.
Jennifer Ramieh, of the American Red Cross, said the Cannery Casino Hotel in North Las Vegas has offered for the next 10 days to provide free hotel accommodations to fire evacuees.
Ramieh also told the evacuees the Red Cross has put together extended evacuation kits that includes a voucher for Goodwill to get clothing, gift cards from Carrabas Italian Grill restaurants and a snack kit from the Three Square Food Bank.
Mark Blankensop, chief of the Nevada Department of Forestry, said he received several calls about pets being left in the evacuated homes, so he went out and began bringing them down the mountain.
"I ended up with 11 cats and two dogs in my truck," he said. He said he was able to get the pet to their owners. He told the homeowners that the fire crews have been working to take care of their homes and watering their plants.
After the meeting, Lauren Olson, who has had a cabin for 10 years in the Old Town development area of Kyle Canyon, said she and her husband have been staying with friends in the Las Vegas Valley. She had high praise for the more than 800 people working on the fire.
"I think they're doing a wonderful job, but of course we're concerned," Olson said. "We have to work with them. It's a tough situation."
Olson said she wasn't that worried about her belongings and her home.
"I got out my pictures and we have one car that's still up there," she said. "I have a lot of stuff. But stuff is just stuff."