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Mount Charleston wildfire reduced to 2,794 acres, Forest Service says

Updated June 30, 2020 - 4:51 pm

The size of the wildfire on Mount Charleston was reduced to 2,794 acres on Tuesday afternoon due to an infrared flight providing more accurate mapping, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Forest Service investigators previously called it a 5,000-acre wildfire, which started as a 10-acre brush fire near the Mahogany Grove Campground about 2:40 p.m. Sunday. The estimate on the size of the fire was reduced to just over 3,000 acres on Monday, followed by the update on Tuesday to just under 2,800 acres.

The Mahogany Fire “was likely human caused,” said Ray Johnson, a fire prevention officer with the U.S. Forest Service.

The blaze did not grow overnight but remained at zero percent containment on Sunday, Johnson said Monday, adding that it “will not be contained today, and it may not be contained for a few days.”

The Mahogany Fire had 10% containment on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Forest Service’s social media feed.

There were positive developments with the weather at the start of the week. Strong winds the day before had fueled the blaze and hindered firefighters’ ability to combat it from the ground and prevented them from using aircraft on Sunday.

Firefighters started their air assault on the blaze Monday morning with “crop duster-size” aircraft and later with larger air tankers, Johnson said.

He said he expects the percentage of containment to go up Monday night once crews come back down the mountain and update them.

“The weather conditions have been favorable for us today, as opposed to yesterday,” Johnson said, referencing little to no wind and low mountain temperatures. “We’re really optimistic today.”

Johnson said there were 40 to 50 mph gusts on Sunday. He said the overnight temperature dropped to 41 degrees, which helped reduce the “intensity of the fire.”

Winds at Mount Charleston were expected to top out at about 25 mph Monday, National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Outler said.

Parts of Lee Canyon were evacuated Sunday night, along with the Spring Mountain Youth Camp, but Johnson said no additional evacuations were anticipated as of early Monday.

The Red Cross set up an evacuation center for displaced residents late Sunday at Bilbray Elementary School in the northwest valley, but a school representative said no one used the facility overnight. A sign on the door encouraged anyone who needed help to call the Red Cross at 855-891-7325.

“Our services remain available and we are very much ready to provide any assistance as needed,” Red Cross spokeswoman Jennifer Sparks said.

Smaller fires

Firefighters on Monday also responded to a much smaller fire in Wallace Canyon and were investigating a report from the Nye County Sheriff’s Office of a small fire that started in either Carpenter Canyon or Trout Canyon.

The fire in Wallace Canyon was likely caused by lightning, Johnson said.

Power was expected to be restored around noon by NV Energy.

By 1:15 p.m. on Monday, authorities had opened Kyle Canyon Road to State Route 158, which remained closed. They also opened Lee Canyon Road up to Champion Road.

The uncontained Mahogany Fire started about 2:40 p.m. Sunday, closing all roads to the area.

Power lines being inspected

NV Energy crews were inspecting the power lines early Monday for possible damage.

“We are checking for wind and fire damage now and if no major damage is found we hope to have power back up by late morning or early afternoon,” said Jennifer Schuricht, NV Energy spokeswoman.

NV Energy has about 425 customers on Mount Charleston.

Schuricht said the company used generators to provide backup power for water pumping and firefighting operations on Sunday.

The fire department requested the lines be de-energized on Sunday as they began fighting the fire, NV Energy said.

Lack of cell service

Brenda Talley lives in the Kyle Canyon area. She said the fire itself was frightening, but what made it worse was the fact that residents in the area lost all cellphone communication after the power went out. She said the loss of cellphone service caused by power outages started after recent upgrades were made to cellphone towers in the area.

“When the power goes off now we lose cellphone service, so we can’t get the evacuation notices on our phone that we used to get,” Talley said.

Talley drove from her residence to the road closure location on Kyle Canyon Road to confirm that she still didn’t need to evacuate.

“We don’t know what the fire situation is, if there is an evacuation notice, so we depend on someone going door to door,” Talley said, calling the lack of communication “a dangerous situation.”

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