High winds whip up Foothill fire

SHERIDAN - Afternoon winds whipped up a wildland fire Tuesday that briefly threatened upscale homes along Foothill Road and Fairview Lane near the California state line.

The cause is under investigation, but authorities believe the fire started accidentally, said East Fork Fire Deputy Chief Dave Drew. There were no injuries or structural damage.

"It's a winter feeding area for deer," said Sgt. Lance Modispacher, spokesman for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. "There will be a lot of little critters without a home tonight. The fire kind of blew into a corner. Foothill and Fredericksburg roads acted as fire breaks."

Approximately 75 to 80 firefighters contained the blaze to 40- to 60-acres while other personnel from Nevada Division of Forestry, Truckee Meadows, Alpine County, Carson City and the Bureau of Indian Affairs stood by. Douglas County sheriff's deputies and East Fork paramedics also were on scene. Nevada Division of Forestry Battalion Chief John Bellona said 13 engines and four tenders were on the scene.

Drew said the extra personnel was welcome because of the high winds. Earlier in the day, Drew had ordered no control burns be authorized because of the windy conditions.

"We're fighting spot fires all around the structures," Drew said of the challenging conditions.

Modispacher said homeowners had cleared areas around the structures, which prevented loss. The area is near the scene of the devastating Autumn Hills fire in 1996 which destroyed four homes and 3,400 acres. At that time, officials began an education campaign to teach homeowners to leave cleared areas around their residences.

Drew said the fire was reported about 3 p.m. Winds were reported to be up to 30 mph at that time. A helicopter was called for, but high winds kept it grounded. About 5 p.m., the flames were suppressed, but Drew said the firefighters would stay to ensure sparks were not fanned into flames.

"With these winds, it could take off any minute. Right now, we are putting in a clear fire break with two bulldozers and we will feel a lot more comfortable with it," Drew said.

Sheriff's deputies went door-to-door in the area warning people about the blaze and turned back a school bus with four children from Scarselli Elementary School.

"We told them to take them back to the school and call the parents," Sheriff Ron Pierini said.

Ash and yellow smoke filled the air, but the foreman of Aspen Creek Ranch, just across Fairview Lane from the fire, refused to leave.

Pierini said a forced evacuation would take too many resources and was not ordered because the fire was contained across the street.

Modispacher said the fire burned 6-to-8-foot sagebrush and bitter brush. Douglas County Animal Control officials also were on hand to assist with domestic animals, Modispacher said.


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