Thunderstorm threat for huge wildfires across northern Nevada | SierraSun.com

Thunderstorm threat for huge wildfires across northern Nevada

Martin Griffith
Associated Press Writer

RENO, Nev. (AP) ” A threat of thunderstorms with dry lightning loomed over eastern Nevada on Monday where firefighters already are battling extreme heat along with the flames that have blackened some at least square miles.

Most of the generally lightning-caused blazes that had blackened 466,434 acres were in Elko County, where residents of tiny Jarbidge near the Idaho border remained under an evacuation order and an unknown number of ranches were threatened. No damage to structures or injuries were reported.

Temperatures hit 99 degrees Sunday in Elko, about 290 miles east of Reno. Officials were trying to make as much progress as possible before the expected return of another round of dry thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday.

The largest fire complexes were burning in Idaho and Utah along with Nevada, making the exact number of acres affected in Nevada difficult to tally.

The 567,721-acre Murphy complex had pushed south from Idaho to within one mile of Jarbidge, said fire information officer Bill Watt. While roughly 90 percent of the fire was in Idaho, the most active part of it was in Nevada, he said.

“Crews have set up sprinkler systems and hoses to protect homes and buildings in Jarbidge,” Watt said. “We’re hopeful of keeping the fire out of Jarbidge.”

The three-state 192,738-acre Winecup complex had burned within six miles of Jackpot along the Idaho border, Watt said. While the complex to the east of west of Jackpot also covered parts of Idaho and Utah, an estimated 80 percent of it was in Nevada.

The Winecup complex was 12 percent contained early Monday, while the Murphy complex was 15 percent contained.

“There are ranches throughout this country,” Watt said. “Some ranches have been evacuated and some are threatened. We’re working with ranchers to protect structures.”

Also in Elko County, officials reported major progress against the 71,340-acre Red House complex south and west of Elko and the 58,427-acre Hepworth complex north of Wells with containment at 91 percent and 80 percent, respectively.

The string of fires had destroyed extensive rangeland needed to sustain both wildlife and cattle, officials said.

Nevada Department of Wildlife officials said mule deer and sage grouse especially will feel the loss of habitat. Sage grouse numbers are threatened across the West.

“We’ve effectively lost these habitats for the next 30 to 50 years, conservatively,” said Shawn Espinosa, wildlife biologist for the department. “The potential for successful (habitat) restoration is limited.”

Elsewhere, the 133,521-acre Antelope complex south and west of Battle Mountain was 50 percent contained, while the 3,847-acre Cathedral Fire southwest of Ely was 80 percent contained.

Along the eastern Sierra just west of Reno, the 2,710-acre Hawken fire was expected to be fully contained on Monday after once threatening hundreds of homes. Crews were being dispatched to other fires or sent home to rest.