Jackass fire should be under control Monday

Firefighters estimate the Jackass Flat fire south of Wellington will be fully contained Monday, one week after a lightning strike ignited the nine-square-mile blaze fueled by piƱon-juniper and cheatgrass.

Information officer John Arneson said as of Friday the cost of fighting the 6,225-acre fire was $1.1 million.

The fire broke out July 17 in Jackass Flat and Risue Canyon, four miles northeast of Coleville, Calif., and seven miles south of Wellington.

Officials expect the Jackass fire to be under control by 6 p.m. Monday.

"That means there is no actual live fire," Arneson said. "Everything is cold. There is no way it's going beyond its boundaries.

"There are still a lot of people on the ground making sure every stump is overturned and every rock is dug under. They're feeling the ground with their gloves off to make sure it's cool. It takes a little time," Arneson said.

Those crew members are followed by the rehabilitation team, he said.

"It's going to take quite a while," he said.

Rehabilitation crews will look for impacts on the sage grouse habitat, petroglyphs and pictographs in the remote mountain area.

"We've been so busy just trying to contain and control the fire," Arneson said. "But that is winding down."

Information officer Tom Crawford said firefighters in sensitive areas try to adjust fire lines without putting suppression efforts in jeopardy.

"Because of the concerns over sage grouse in the Pine Nuts and Sweetwater range, we want to be extremely careful with suppression and rehabilitation and make attempts to keep fire out of there," Crawford said.

Alternatives to using bulldozers could be water drops from helicopters or retardant from air tankers.

"It's kind of a critical element to keep the habitat as intact as possible," Crawford said. "Otherwise, the sage grouse are lost and the habitat converts to cheatgrass. It's years before it goes back to what it is now."

Crawford said archeologists have identified prehistoric rock drawings and carvings in the area which also were threatened by the fire.

"We certainly want to be careful with respect to any dozer lines and with respect to keeping the area fairly secured. We don't want crowds of cyclists suddenly showing up and think the area is open to riding because the vegetation is gone."

Arneson said the whole area remained off limits.

"As far as Risue Creek, Desert Creek Road, and Jackass Flat, it's closed to all traffic," he said. "We don't want anybody up there just in case something changes."

Arneson, who lives in Gardnerville, works as a pump operator driver for the Carson City Fire Department.

This is his second year as a member of the Sierra Front Interagency Overhead Team.

As of Friday, he had been in Smith Valley since the fire broke out Monday.

"Smith Valley High School is like a little city within itself," he said. "We have showers set up and caterers to bring people sack lunches or those MREs (meals ready to eat)."

Arneson said officials had been holding community meetings and going door-to-door in neighborhoods on both sides of the fire.

"People's concerns are not so much is the fire under control, but which way is it heading. They just want to know information. We've been going door-to-door every day, handing out updates and talking to folks about how the fire is progressing or not progressing. We just try to keep everybody as informed as we can."

Officials continued to monitor weather forecasts.

The extended outlook through today called for scattered thundershowers and hot, humid temperatures.

"The thundershowers can be a blessing or a curse," Arneson said. "We get the rain, but we get the wind and the lightning, too."

Crews from the U.S. Forest Service, Mono County, Lyon County, East Fork Fire Protection District, Carson City Fire, Mason Valley Fire, the U.S. Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Division of Forestry, Nevada Highway Patrol and Nevada and California Departments of Transportation were on scene.

Resources Friday included seven air tankers, five helicopters, one air attack observation plane, 182 water tenders, two dozers, 14 hand crews, 17 engines, and 526 personnel.

The fire burned in Douglas and Lyon counties and Mono County, Calif.


Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center



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