State forester says 150,000 acres burning in state

Nik Dirga/Sierra SunA plume of smoke towered over Interstate 80 Sunday afternoon about 4 p.m. in the early hours of the Gap Fire.

Nik Dirga/Sierra SunA plume of smoke towered over Interstate 80 Sunday afternoon about 4 p.m. in the early hours of the Gap Fire.

Gov. Kenny Guinn has activated the state's Emergency Operations Center to coordinate efforts by state agencies to battle fires now raging across 150,000 acres of Nevada.

State Forester Steve Robinson said Wednesday that despite the number of fires, crews have kept the damage below what it was two years ago. Altogether, just under 400,000 acres has burned in Nevada this year - about half what had been consumed by this date in 1999.

That year finished with a total of 1.7 million acres burned.

The largest is the Buffalo complex fire in Northern Nevada, which is now 40,000 acres. Robinson said that fire is hitting some ranching allotments for the third year in a row.

"Which means BLM is going to be forced to reduce allotments in some cases so there are a lot of ranchers out there very concerned about the burning," he said.

Robinson briefed Guinn on the situation Wednesday but says he is in daily contact with Guinn's chief of staff Marybel Batjer.

He said the Emergency Operations Center is working to make sure all state resources are being made available to fight the fires, including Chinook helicopters, feeding kitchens and trucks from the National Guard.

He said there have been 850 fires in Nevada so far this year - 178 of them human caused. Lightning is blamed for the rest.

"Compared to 1999, the number of incidents is up but acreage is down," he said. "We attribute that to initial attack - really hitting it hard. It costs money, but it's paid off in the number of acres burned."

He said one problem now is that many of the firefighters need a break because they've been fighting fires for eight straight days and have to be rotated off the line.

"The governor asked me how the firefighters are doing and I said 'Yeah, the guys are getting tired. We've got a lot of tired folks out there."

He said reinforcements are getting hard to find because there are big fires in other states as well.

"The Martis fire (along Interstate 80 last month) was the first big fire in the West so we got pretty much what we wanted," he said."Now we're competing with Oregon, Washington and Idaho because they've got big fires going on."

Robinson said there are "two to three weeks left of weather that's going to bring in these lightning storms."


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