Firefighters concentrate on structures

A fire captain for the Bureau of Land Management said this afternoon that firefighters were concentrating on structure protection as the stubborn Jackass Fire continued to burn out of control.

By 3 p.m. this afternoon, the fire in a remote area seven miles south of Wellington had burned 6,000 acres of piƱon-juniper and cheatgrass straddling the Douglas-Lyon county border.

Capt. Jim Farrell, coming off a 16-hour shift, said engines had been ordered for structure protection.

"So far, no structures are in immediate danger," he said.

Officials were concerned if the wind shifted, 10 to 15 homes on East Lane in Antelope Valley would be threatened.

The fire was one mile above the houses.

While no structures were lost as of this afternoon, officials were concerned about a sage grouse nesting and breeding habitat.

Highways 338 and 208, which had closed temporarily, reopened this afternoon.

"The fire burned actively through the morning and afternoon hours, with sporadic spotting reported on those active fire fronts," said Tom Crawford, Sierra Front Information officer.

Air support resumed this afternoon once the smoke cleared enough to safely fly air tankers and drop fire retardant effectively, Crawford said.

"Down-canyon winds, while they are present, have not been as much of a problem as originally predicted," he said.

"However, there are thunderstorms predicted for the area. These storms may pose suppression problems due to erratic wind patterns."

There was no indication when the fire would be contained or controlled.

"It's doing pretty much what we expected," said Mark Struble, Bureau of Land Management spokesman. "We're looking at record temperatures here in the valley, with slightly cooler temps, but not much at the fire.

"The worst that could happen would be for a thunderstorm to park over top of the fire and for the winds to blow it out on all sides."

Travelers were advised to be aware of fire apparatus in the area and to drive slowly if smoke made visibility difficult.

Lynne Katusich, who lives in Antelope Valley, said she and her neighbors were in the "smoke center" rather than the fire zone.

"We're really socked in. I can't see the other side of the Valley," she said this afternoon. "It's weird, it's not the usual condition."

Katusich said she was on the opposite side of Antelope Valley from the fire, but was concerned for her neighbors across the way.

"I have a lot of friends over there and I'm worried," she said. "Fortunately for us over here, the lightning struck in Mills Canyon, but we got thunder bumpers enough to put out the fire above my house."

She said heavy winds Monday night blew the smoke out of the valley temporarily.

"It was like a gale force," she said. "My cat wouldn't even go outside. We get breezy nights, but not like that."

Katusich said she went to sleep, but awoke later to the smell of smoke,

"The wind had started whirling a bit and brining it back in," she said.

She said the Antelope Valley volunteer firefighters worked until 3 a.m. Tuesday and were back at the scene at noon shuttling water.

"We've got to keep somebody on this side of the valley in case of a lightning strike today (Tuesday)," she said.

Mike Schiller watched the fire crest the hill Monday from his house on the south end of Topaz Lake.

"Ashes were coming out from everywhere and the wind was just roaring across the lake," Schiller said.

"It was dark early, then the whole hillside was engulfed in flames," he said. "I started taking pictures. By 11 p.m., it was over the top of the hill and by midnight it was gone."

Highway 338 was closed temporarily at the junction of State Route 208 north of Wellington. Desert Creek roads were closed to Highway 338.

Desert Creek Campground and other sites near Desert Creek were evacuated.

Crews from the U.S. Forest Service, Mono County, Lyon County, East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts, the U.S. Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Division of Forestry, Nevada Highway Patrol and Nevada Department of Transportation were on scene.

Resources included seven air tankers, two helicopters, one air attack observation plane, two water tenders, five dozers, four hand crews, 17 engines, five command staff and 120 personnel.

A Type I National Incident Management Team was ordered to take over the management of the fire.


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