South County fire at 500 acres

A fast-moving fire consumed 500 acres Friday in Topaz Ranch Estates threatening 300 homes and forcing the evacuation of residents to Smith Valley High School.

As of 6 p.m., a west wind blew the flames back and the fire began burning away east of the area toward Topaz Lake.

The Sleeping Elephant fire was caused by a lighting strike about 2 p.m., according to Bureau of Land Management spokesman Mark Struble.

"The flames are 12-feet high," said Sheriff Ron Pierini.

He said he was contacting Gov. Jim Gibbons' office for authorization for mandatory evacuation.

"We're going door-to-door and getting people out of here. It is moving and burning really fast," Pierini said from the scene. " Everybody is being really cooperative."

He said evacuees would be taken to Smith Valley High School rather than Douglas High to avoid the traffic through Minden.

All roads into Topaz Ranch Estates were closed to everyone except emergency personnel.

At 5 p.m., Pierini said the fire was burning next to the Topaz Ranch Estates Volunteer Fire Department station and the sheriff's substation.

A call also went out for volunteers to take animals from the burning area.

Firefighters from East Fork Fire Protection District and the U.S. Forest Service battled the grass and brush blaze in 100-plus degree temperatures and 7-mph winds.

Retired Topaz Lake Fire Chief Bob Gable said at least three helicopters were dipping into Topaz Lake for water to fight the fire.

"It's on the back side of Wild Oat Mountain," Gable said. "It's on the east side of the eastern slope burning down hill toward the old Sleeping Elephant Ranch," Gable said.

Two air tankers also were on scene with 45 personnel, one hand crew, three engines and three command staff.

According to a Bureau of Land Management spokesman, numerous downstrikes were reported Friday afternoon in Douglas, Lyon and Washoe counties.


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