Saturday update: Bison fire continues to threaten homes |

Saturday update: Bison fire continues to threaten homes

Special to The R-C

A fire burning east of Gardnerville continues to threaten dispersed homes as it burns along both sides of the Pine Nut Mountains.

The size of the Bison fire has been reduced to 6,330 acres after better mapping, according to a 9:11 p.m. update by Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Information Officer Elayne Briggs.

“There has been very active fire behavior the last two days,” she said. “The fire double crested the Pine Nut Mountains and is now established on both sides of the range.”

Despite gusty winds and low humidity more than 400 firefighters have managed to get a line around three-tenths of the fire.

“Aviation resources enhanced ground resource efforts in line construction securing the southwest flank, reducing fire movement to the east and preventing any strong pushes to the east,” she said.

On Sunday firefighters on the ground and in the air will continue to flank the fire. Due to the size and complexity of the fire, a Type 2 incident management team will take command of the blaze Sunday morning.

With darkness, the seven tankers and three helicopters are grounded, while 16 hand crews continue to work through the night supported by 21 engines, five water tenders and four bulldozers.

Despite high wind and rough terrain, as of Saturday night, no structures had been reported destroyed in the fire that was set by lightning 3:30 p.m Thursday.

A portable base established at Minden-Tahoe Airport served five single-engine tankers working the fire, according to Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch spokesman Mark Struble.

Two large tankers were flying out of Stead, though heavy winds in the upper elevations prevented the use of aircraft in some places, according to Douglas County Sheriff’s spokesman, Sgt. Pat Brooks.

“These winds have fueled this fire, making for extreme behavior and very dangerous situations,” Brooks said.

Gusty winds pushed the fire northeast on Friday and Saturday, cresting the Pine Nuts in two spots south of Mt. Siegel and sending a plume of smoke into Smith and Mason valleys.

Struble said plans are in place for moving both air and ground firefighters to Smith Valley should the fire move further east.

Voluntary evacuations of 20 homes on the west slope of the Pine Nuts were conducted Friday night. Smith Valley residents were told they would be able to see flames from the fire at the top of the mountain.

Fire officials are coordinating with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Washoe Tribe as significant cultural resources are threatened. They are also coordinating with the Nevada Department of Wildlife due to the severe threat the fire is posing to highly critical sage grouse habitat in Pine Nut Mountains. A fawn was rescued by a hand crew in the critical deer winter range on Friday.

According to the National Weather Service, today’s forecast calls for west winds 5-10 mph becoming southwest 10-15 mph in the afternoon, with gusts of up to 25 mph.

As of 9:33 p.m. Saturday, southwest winds had died down to 7 mph, with 20 mph gusts, according to the weather station at the Fish Springs Volunteer Fire Department.

Pinenut Road at Out-R-Way has been closed to nonresidents until further notice.

Information about the fire is being posted on Sierra Front Wild Fire Cooperators Facebook Page.

As of Saturday, the Bison fire is estimated to have cost $800,000 to fight, according to a federal situation report.