LAS VEGAS (AP) — A massive mountain wildfire that cast a smoky pall over Las Vegas on Wednesday destroyed six structures at a desert ranch and left two people in the firefighting force with minor injuries, officials said.
One of the buildings that burned in the Carpenter 1 fire was a commercial structure at Prospect Springs, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Suzanne Shelp said. She didn't know if any homes were among the buildings destroyed on the ranch several miles from woodsy Mount Charleston hamlets where crews were protecting more than 400 homes, a canyon hotel and a scenic alpine lodge and cabins.
In northern Nevada, about 1,065 firefighters reported progress battling a fire that grew Wednesday to more than 27,000 acres, or about 43 square miles in the Pine Nut Mountains near Carson City and Gardnerville. Containment was increased to 65 percent, although fire managers said a voluntary evacuation remained for 78 homes in the upper Smith Valley area of Lyon County.
Fire managers north and south kept a wary eye on the weather, hoping that predictions of possible thunderstorms would bring more rain to quell flames than lightning to spark new fires.
Humidity rose to 20 percent and temperatures remained in the 80s on Mount Charleston near Las Vegas, where an army of 1,077 firefighters and staff members worked to surround and beat back a blaze covering almost 40 square miles of rugged mountainside and canyons. One firefighter injured a knee on Tuesday and a camp support staff member suffered heat illness, officials said.
Crews set backfires, cleared undergrowth and positioned more than 50 fire engines to protect homes in the Rainbow, Echo and Old Town areas in Kyle Canyon about 25 miles northwest of downtown Las Vegas. A day earlier, the fire spread about 9 square miles and overall containment dropped from 15 percent to 10 percent as erratic gusts of wind pushed flames up canyons, down the mountain and, briefly, across state Route 157 — the main highway serving the evacuated Kyle Canyon area.
Overnight mapping put the fire at 25,524 acres of pinyon, juniper and bristlecone pines in an area at elevations of from 5,000 to 9,000 feet above sea level. The National Weather Service said the possibility of thunderstorms would increase Thursday.
With a visible pall over the city, building managers apologized to office workers about the smoky odor and Clark County officials issued an air quality alert, the highest form of public warning. It warned of unhealthy air pollution levels and advised people with respiratory diseases, bronchitis and asthma to stay indoors.