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September 21, 2012
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Highway 395 opens as Pine Nut fire grows to 2,000 acres

The Carter Springs Fire has grown to more than 2,000 acres in the Pine Nut Mountains, but the direction of the blaze has allowed rescue personnel to reopen Highway 395 south of Gardnerville.

According to an update by Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center, an aerial reconnaisance team was out early this morning evaluating fire acreage and behavior.

The fire, which started around 12:30 p.m. Friday, is burning in pinon-juniper woodland east of Highway 395 about two miles south of Ray May Way. The cause is still under investigation.

Sierra Front estimated containment at 5 percent by Saturday morning and expected full containment by Monday.

Highway 395 has reopened with a pilot vehicle, so motorists should expect delays and watch for fire vehicles.

"There is a decreasing threat to approximately 30 residences west of Highway 395 if the fire were to jump the highway," reported Fire Information Officer Mark Struble. "However, this is looking less likely as fire personnel consolidate fire lines. No structures have been lost at this time. Power lines down at the fire scene, but they are deenergized, which is impacting some local rural residences."

Struble also reported the fire is impacting sage grouse habitat and Native American cultural resources.

Presently, there are nine air tankers, five helicopters, four water tenders, five hand crews, 20 engines, and 13 command staff battling the blaze, totaling 250 personnel.

Structure protection is being handled by the East Fork Fire Protection District.

The incident command post is at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Gardnerville.

Highway 395 will remain closed tonight as firefighters continue to battle a 1,500-acre fire in the Pine Nut Mountains this evening.

Erratic winds sent the fire in all directions from the highway where it was first reported at about 12:30 p.m. today. Reports are that dispatchers handled more than two dozen 911 calls in the first three minutes after the fire was first spotted.

According to the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch, the fire is burning up the hill east of the highway.

Flames are visible from Carson Valley at the upper northeast end of the fire.

Interagency spokesman Mark Struble said that as the fire burns east, there is a decreasing threat to the 30 homes on the west side of the highway.

Five handcrews are working to consolidate a line between the fire and the highway and have contained 5 percent of the blaze. The fire is expected to be contained by Monday.

Darkness grounded firefighting aircraft, which at their peak included 10 air tankers and four helicopters. A score of fire engines and four water tenders are protecting structures from the blaze, which was reported at 12:30 p.m. today.

Ground units will continue to battle the fire until Saturday morning when aircraft will be able to fly again.

They will also conduct aerial reconnaisance to evaluate the size of the fire.

Firefighters were battling erratic winds Friday afternoon while trying to get a protective line around the 1,500-acre Carter Springs fire south of Gardnerville.

Reports of the fast-moving blaze on the east side of Highway 395 first came in at about 12:25 p.m. and immediately threatened at least five structures within a quarter mile or less of the flames.

Burning in pinon-juniper woodlands, the fire was reportedly heading south toward Double Springs Flat. No estimate of containment was available Friday afternoon, although rescue personnel had been evacuating homes in the area with the assistance of Douglas County Search and Rescue and the Sheriff's Office.

The hills above Pine View Estates to the north were burned last summer in the 4,180-acre Ray May Fire, which started Aug. 16, 2011.

County Manager Steve Mokrohisky said Friday afternoon that East Fork Fire officials were working to set up a phone line for concerned residents. In the meantime, he said, residents should call East Fork at 782-9040 with any questions.

By 4 p.m. Friday, nine air tankers, one helicopter, 10 engines, four hand crews and seven command staff were battling the blaze - a total 150 personnel.

At least one firefighter was treated for a muscular/skeletal injury.

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Chuck Allen estimated it would take several hours for the highway to reopen.

Motorists heading north along Highway 395 are still being diverted at Holbrook Junction east to Yerington. Those traveling to Carson Valley were advised to travel over Monitor Pass to Markleeville and then to Highway 88 north to Minden.

Southbound traffic is still being stopped at Riverview Drive in Gardnerville. Motorists were advised to avoid the intersection by turning south onto Highway 88 from Highway 395 in Minden and then turning to Markleeville and over Monitor Pass to Topaz Lake.

Douglas County School District Superintendent Lisa Noonan said Friday afternoon that students from Douglas High, Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School and Minden Elementary who live in Topaz Ranch Estates and nearby areas were bused through Carson City and Yerington to reach their homes. Those students residing in Pine View Estates and other locations further north stayed at their respective, and parents were notified to pick them up.

"That's about a hundred miles; it will take a while for them to get home," she said. "We were hoping we could avoid it and waited until the last minute for the road to reopen. But we had to send those buses through Yerington. Every family was hand-called by the schools, and some parents just wanted to come pick up their kids themselves."

Parents with questions can call their children's school or the district office at 782-5134.

NV Energy crews responded to impacted power lines in the fire area. Other agencies on scene included Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and the Nevada Division of Forestry.

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The Record Courier Updated Sep 22, 2012 05:04PM Published Sep 21, 2012 03:30PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.