Kurt Hildebrand

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July 11, 2013
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Fire threatens Smith Valley

Lyon County deputies went door-to-door on Tuesday asking residents of western Smith Valley to evacuate their homes as the Bison fire burned into Pipeline Canyon.

Driven by westerly winds, the fire prompted the voluntary evacuation of the area north of Artist View and west of Upper Colony Road.

A temporary shelter was opened at the Smith Valley Baptist Church on Hudson Way, according to a notice issued by Lyon County Manager Jeff Page.

The Lyon County Volunteer Rescue Group and the Nevada Department of Agriculture will be available to move large animals if necessary.

The fire burned actively on the northeast and southeast sides until about 3 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch.

Growing to 25,733 acres over the course of five days, the fire has stubbornly resisted containment as firefighters pursued it over a 12-mile front on either side of the Pine Nuts.

Douglas County commissioners declared a state of emergency Monday, qualifying the county for additional state resources, according to East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini. Should Gov. Brian Sandoval declare a state emergency, it would qualify the county for federal funds. Sandoval was briefed about the fire on Monday, as was the director of the Department of Emergency Management.

According to Geomac fire mapping, the fire burned down into Smith Valley on Monday night, stopping at the base of the Pine Nuts south west of Artesia Lake. It also continued to burn in the Buckeye Creek watershed on the south end of Pine Nut Valley. The northern most flank of the fire burned another mile north along the east slope of the Pine Nuts on both sides of Sunrise Pass Road. The fire is now three miles south of the Douglas County line, and is four miles due east of Mineral Peak.

The winds shifted on Tuesday afternoon to out of the northwest. Today’s weather calls for west winds 5-10 mph increasing to 10-15 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 25 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The fire, which more than doubled in size on Monday, also saw an increase in resources with about 1,100 firefighters comprising 22 hand crews, 30 engines and five helicopters, in addition to nine air tankers. About 200 firefighters have been stationed in Smith Valley to fight the fire on the Pine Nuts’ eastern slope.

A base for the half-dozen single-engine tankers was set up at Minden-Tahoe Airport. Airport Manager Bobbi Thompson said the Federal Aviation Administration has activated a temporary air traffic control tower.

The fire has been burning since lightning sparked it at 3:30 p.m. July 4. The fire destroyed some structures in the area of the old Slater Mine, according to the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch. The only reported injury occurred when one firefighter twisted a knee.

Smoke and ash from the Bison fire prompted officials to warn downwind residents with respiratory problems to stay indoors.

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The Record Courier Updated Jun 9, 2014 02:13PM Published Jul 11, 2013 07:20PM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.