by Kurt Hildebrand
khildebrand@recordcourier.com

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July 8, 2013
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Monday update: Bison fire at 21,337 acres, Douglas declares emergency

A state of emergency has been declared in Douglas County today as the Bison fire continues to grow to 21,337 acres.

Winds on Sunday and Monday pushed the fire north consuming an additional 4,000 acres as it headed for the base of Mt. Como and toward the Buckskin Mountains and Smith Valley.

While the fire’s acreage has expanded, so has the percentage of containment. Fire crews have a line a quarter of the way around the fire.

The fire has been burning since it was set by lightning 3:30 p.m. July Fourth. In that time, no homes have been reported destroyed, only some old structures in the Slater Mine area, according to the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch.

One firefighter who twisted a knee on Sunday is the only reported injury.

Douglas County commissioners declared a state of emergency on Monday, qualifying the county for additional state resources and paving the way should Gov. Brian Sandoval decide to declare a state emergency.

Sandoval was briefed about the fire, as was the director of the Department of Emergency Management.

In all 722 firefighters are battling the blaze on both sides of the Pine Nuts, including 22 hand crews and 30 engines. Nine air tankers and five helicopters flew support for the fire until they were grounded by darkness.

Officials plan to move more firefighters to the northern end of the fire on Tuesday, should it continue that direction.

Smoke and ash from the Bison fire is prompting officials to warn Smith Valley, Mason Valley and Yerington residents with respiratory problems to stay indoors.

“People with respiratory problems are urged to stay indoors until the smoke and ash clear,” Lyon County Manager Jeff Page warned. “If you are experiencing respiratory distress you are urged to seek medical help. If you know of someone that has respiratory problems you are urged to check on them until the smoke and ash clear.”

The fire has burned along a 12-mile stretch of the Pine Nuts from Mt. Como in the north to the Ruby Hill Mine in the south. High winds drove the fire from Pine Nut Creek where it threatened 20 homes to the base of Mt Como four miles from the northern Douglas County line.

The fire’s expansion has led to additional road closures, including East Valley Road and Grandview, Brunswick Canyon Road, Mexican Dam Road and Sunrise Pass Road at Artesia in Smith Valley. These roads are only open to residents with proof.

Firefighters are asking residents to stay clear of the fire for safety’s sake.

“A number of private ATVs, motorcycles and other vehicles were seen very close to the fire area,” said Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch fire information officer Elayne Briggs. “We ask that, for your safety and the safety of the firefighters you stay away from the fire area.”

“We watched the fire last night from our house as it burned through Sunrise Pass and near to Artesia Lake, well into Smith Valley,” Smith Valley resident David Williams said in an e-mail on Monday morning. “The fire was certainly burning aggressively last night. Had there been any wind shift to the north we would have been seriously impacted.”

Page said that the fire is burning several miles north of homes and businesses. Firefighters have established a camp in Smith Valley for resources working the eastern flank of the fire.

“The Smith Valley schools are being used as a base camp,” he said. “If evacuation is necessary we will utilize sheriffs office resources and our City Watch telephone system.”


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The Record Courier Updated Jul 12, 2013 10:43AM Published Jul 11, 2013 07:16PM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.