The fast-moving flames threatened no structures but aggressively consumed dried brush and timber as it climbed the mountain in an area that had already seen one of the worst burn disasters at the end of last year in the Caughlin Ranch Fire.
By 6 p.m. nearly 150 personnel from the newly formed Truckee Meadows Fire District, on its second day in operation, the Reno Fire Department, Nevada Department of Forestry and Bureau of Land Management were battling the blaze.
Four air tankers and one helicopter were on order beginning at 3:30 p.m. from the Reno-Tahoe Airport. Six hand crews, five command staff, eight engines and 125 personnel were on hand fighting against the flames that were expected to last through the night as heavy winds fed the fire.
“They are still aggressively fighting it,” said Michele Anderson, Reno Fire Department spokeswoman. “We don’t have an estimate on containment. They have a good line around most of the fire.”
The incident was upgraded to a Type 3 fire, which meant that regionally the situation would become more organized, an emergency command center would be organized at Caughlin Ranch Elementary School and federal guidelines for emergency incidents would be set into motion. Incidents range from Type 1, which is the most severe, to Type 3.
According to Armando Avina, spokesman for the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, arson investigators are determining the cause of the vehicle crash and subsequent fire.
Deputies involved in the incident said the vehicle never rolled over but instead drove straight into a ravine. One deputy heard what he though was a large explosive sound from the area where the vehicle came to a rest and the fire began, Avina said.
The Nevada Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the fire and the accident, Anderson said.
The dry winter has left in its wake dangerous, copious fire fuels in the Reno-Sparks area. Cheat grass, dried weeds and thirsty timber populate the region. One spark from any ignition source could cause a disastrous situation as seen Monday.
The second day of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District was proving to be a tough test for the new department, Fire Chief Charles Moore said
When the fire started, Truckee Meadows held a unified command with Reno Fire Department at the scene. As the incident transitioned into a Type 3 event, Reno Fire and U.S. Forest Service took over the unified command and a regional command post was installed at Caughlin Ranch Elementary School.
“It was going good,” Moore said. “We responded together, set up our unified command. We worked together to call in additional resources. Everyone found where they needed to go. We had one brush fire (Sunday), we had one motorcycle accident with injuries. Everything was handled professionally and efficiently. It’s busy, the forecast is between 6,000-8,000 calls (annually). It’s going to be a busy department.”