MONO COUNTY (CBS SF/AP) — Multiple wildfires continued to burn along the Eastern Sierra Wednesday, with the Mountain View Fire in Mono County burning nearly 29,000 acres and claiming one life in 24 hours, authorities said.
Meanwhile, alarms were being sounded about a second fire that destroyed and damaged Reno homes being stirred up by a return of powerful winds later Wednesday.
The Mono County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the fatality on social media late Wednesday morning.
“We can regretfully confirm one fatality,” an Instagram post read. “We are not aware of any other significant injuries, and no persons have been reported missing.”
As of Wednesday, the Mountain View Fire has burned 28,879 acres total, according to the official incident page. It was zero percent contained.
The Mono County Sheriff said evacuation orders remained in effect Wednesday for the towns of Walker, Coleville and Topaz. US 395 from Bridgeport to the Nevada state line remained closed.
Authorities said damage assessments were underway for the area of the Mountain View Fire, though they noted it could be days before its safe for residents to return. Multiple structures were feared to have been destroyed in the fire.
In Nevada, another anticipated lashing of strong winds raised concerns Wednesday about reviving the so-called Pinehurst Fire that roared through a neighborhood in Reno in similar weather a day earlier
The fire destroyed at least five houses, damaging 15 other structures and forcing people to flee from hundreds of homes.
Authorities said the Pinehurst Fire was about five percent contained and grew to approximately 1,200 acres as of Wednesday.
“We’re looking at 40 mph winds in the valleys again today, 70 mph over the ridgetops, so that will be a concern for us,” Fire Department incident commander Mark Winkelman said.
Two firefighters were injured while battling the blaze over two square miles, but have been treated and released. One suffered an allergic reaction, and the other tore a calf muscle helping evacuate residents from up to 500 homes threatened Tuesday in southwest Reno.
Extremely dry conditions helped fuel the blaze in rugged, hard-to-reach canyons that run between homes in the densely populated neighborhood, Reno Fire Chief David Cochran said.
“Even though there was literally snow on the ground in some areas, a wind-driven fire like that is almost impossible to stop,” Cochran said.
Nevada is experiencing drought, with much of it in extreme drought, and has moved in and out of such dry conditions for years. Numerous studies have linked bigger wildfires in America to climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas, which has made parts of the U.S. West much drier and more flammable.
Investigators from the state and Reno fire marshal’s office as well as the utility NV Energy were trying to find the cause of the fire.
Winkelman said it started about 200 yards from the origin point of a November 2011 fire that destroyed 27 homes. That blaze was started by arcing power lines at a substation in strong winds, he said.
On Tuesday, the wind made it impossible to send up aircraft to help fight the flames, with support from local and federal agencies in northern Nevada and neighboring California becoming critical before wet weather moved in later, Winkelman said.
“It takes a village, as it were, to put out something like this. No one fire department can ever be staffed or equipped to handle something like this,” said Cochran, the fire chief.
Crews anticipated having the Pinehurst Fire fully contained by Friday.
Authorities said they hoped to allow evacuees to return to their homes later in the day. Several roads remained closed.
Power had been restored to all but about 400 homes after NV Energy cut power to about 7,000 customers as a precaution.
© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.