RENO, Nev. — Hundreds of firefighters in rural northeast Nevada battled their way Wednesday to 90 percent containment of a wind-driven wildfire that destroyed four homes and damaged several more along Interstate 80 near Elko about 100 miles (161 kilometers) west of the Utah line.
In western Nevada, an air quality alert was issued along the eastern front of the Sierra where the downtown Reno skyline disappeared in a heavy blanket of smoke from a California wildfire near Yosemite National Park more than 150 miles (241 kilometers) away.
No one was hurt in the fire that broke out in extremely windy conditions near Elko Monday afternoon, U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Greg Deimel said Wednesday. It has burned about 11 square miles (28 sq. kilometers) of mostly grass and sagebrush but should be fully contained by Thursday night.
“We are sorry for the folks who did lose some structures, but all in all, we did well,” Deimel said.
“This fire definitely could have been much more destructive,” he said. “When it’s burning in dry grass, that wind just pushes the fire so fast. I was told you would not be able to outrun a fire like that it was moving so fast.”
A total of seven residences burned in the Orsino and White Rock area, but three of those were uninhabited, Deimel said. Five outbuildings and 16 vehicles also were destroyed by the flames that shut down part of Interstate 80 for several hours on Monday.
More than 500 homes were threatened at the peak of the fire Monday evening, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.
Deimel said there was “virtually no fire activity within the perimeter” by midday Wednesday so some of the 350 crew members on the lines may be released soon to fight other big fires burning throughout the West.
“The weather is going to be much better here. It’s still very low humidity, but the winds are supposed to be less than Tuesday and a lot less than Monday,” he said from Elko.
In Reno, the Washoe County Health District issued an air quality alert warning that the smoky conditions were unhealthy for sensitive groups. Children, older adults and people with respiratory issues including asthma should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors, the health district said.
That blaze in the rugged mountains outside of Yosemite National Park is threatening 1,500 structures and forcing thousands of nearby residents to flee their homes.