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Fires keep crews busy

Merrie Leininger, staff writer

East Fork firefighters extinguished a rash of lightning-started fires this week.

Fire Inspector Terry Taylor said volunteers from Gardnerville, the Ranchos, Topaz Ranch Estates and Ruhenstroth stations, along with the paramedics, responded to four small fires about 7 p.m. Monday between Bodie Flats and Leviathan Mine Road.

“When the storm came through, lightning began to strike the hills on both sides of (Highway) 395. They were all small fires, like between two to four trees. The largest fire was 30 feet by 30 feet,” Taylor said.

Tensions are running high in the fire district these days, Taylor said, because of the high temperatures and the low moisture content of the brush. Apparently, residents are also on alert. Taylor said many people called Monday to report fires before the rain started. However, what they were seeing was simply dust kicked up by the high winds.

“Our concern is with the consistent daily temperatures over 100 degrees, and with the moisture level less than 5 percent, a fire could easily ignite by an accidental source,” Taylor said. “We’re geared up. We’ve talked to volunteers about sticking around as much as possible.”

He said many of the volunteer stations are staffed in the late afternoons, waiting for more lightning strikes.

“It’s a scary time of year, but if the fires are not too far back (in the hills) we should be on top of them pretty fast,” he said.

Volunteers have been sent up to help fight Reno area fires, but are not being dispatched to other western states.

Taylor said East Fork has mutual aid agreements with all the surrounding fire departments, but Chief Tod Carlini’s policy is not to send volunteers out for more than four days.

“Most of these out-of-state fires are federally controlled and they require firefighters stay at the site for a minimum of 14 days and often want them to stay for 22 days. You can’t really do that to a volunteer,” Taylor said.

He said East Fork tries not to send firefighters any further away than Elko, Oregon or Los Angeles.

“Because we have our own challenges here, we’ve been reluctant to send big numbers of firefighters out. Our number one goal is to protect people and property here,” Taylor said.