Firefighting crews gained significant ground on the Carpenter 1 Fire, with incident team officials reporting the blaze was 43 percent contained as of Thursday evening.
The fire grew about 400 acres Thursday to 27,968 acres, but heavy rain that fell on the western edge of the fire Thursday helped slow the spread of the blaze.
“The clouds came in and it really helped the firefighters out,” incident commander Rich Harvey said. “We’re no longer waiting for this thing to come to us. We went after it.”
Officials initially announced containment had reached 25 percent at Thursday’s community meeting held at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area’s visitors center at 5:30 p.m. The audience was exuberant when they heard the number had climbed from 15 percent, with many coming up to hug Harvey after the meeting.
Even better news came shortly after. At about 7 p.m., the incident command team sent out an email announcing the that the fire was actually 43 percent contained.
Though the rain did not douse the entire 43-square-mile blaze, which was sparked by lightning July 1, conditions aided the firefighters.
Harvey said that the area from Rainbow subdivision to Cathedral Rock is contained. Officials believe that much of the southern portion of the fire could be extinguished in the coming days.
The Great Basin National Incident Management Team has thinned out the smaller trees in Kyle Canyon to prevent the fire from reaching the houses.
“I’ve been here since 1968 and it’s the biggest fire I’ve seen in Las Vegas,” said incident management team member Larry Benham.
But not all structures were saved. At least one property owner is already thinking about rebuilding.
Barry Becker, a Las Vegas realtor and owner of the 40-acre Prospect Springs Ranch, lost five structures to the fire earlier this week: two sheds, an outhouse, a cabin and the ranch’s lodge, which was the focal point of the resort.
But at least 10 other structures, including several cabins, were spared. About seven horses, several peacocks and dogs at the ranch also survived.
Becker’s family is one of 11 with a stake in the ranch, which sits six miles from the nearest paved road and boasts a three-acre lake.
“We still have a place to go surrounded by greenery while we rebuild,” he said.
The number of engines involved has risen to 75 and personnel to 1,386. The cost of fighting the wildfire as of Thursday had reached $12 million.
FIRE THREATENS RED ROCK CANYON
The Red Rock Canyon scenic loop was closed Thursday morning, but reopened just before noon. Oak Creek and First Creek hiking trails are open, but all other trails remain closed to the public because of the danger from the fire.
Officials said the fire was burning ‘too hot’ in Red Rock Canyon for crews to work on it. The fire has moved southeast and is burning on La Madre Mountain.
Cloud cover on Thursday helped reduce the heat of the fire near Red Rock, where it is burning the hottest according to the infrared maps. Crews are putting together a plan of attack, team spokeswoman Suzanne Shelp said.
“They’re out there,” Shelp said. “They’re not going to leave that alone.”
Kyle Canyon evacuees have been away from their homes for a week, and officials are still unsure when they will be able to return. Mail for residents of the evacuated homes is being held at the post office at 6210 N. Jones Blvd.
Janet Masanz, 17, has been living with her aunt in Las Vegas since leaving her Mount Charleston home on July 4.
The rest of her family is staying a few miles up the mountain, where evacuations were voluntary.
“I know our backyard got burned up because the fire came right to it,” she said.
She and her family attend the daily community meetings put together by the fire management team to get information and to see each other.
“I guess we’re just waiting to see what’s going on,” Masanz said. “It’s scary. It’s big. It just makes us all unsure. We’re not sure what we’re coming back to.”
RAIN PROMPTS FLASH FLOOD WATCH
A flash flood watch has been issued for the area, and Harvey reminded the firefighters of the hazard that could pose. On the mountain, heavy amounts of rain and the loss of vegetation could cause debris flow and erosion of the topsoil.
“The road you drove in on may not be there when you get back,” Harvey said.
The Clark County Department of Air Quality downgraded the alert issued Wednesday to an advisory. Due to the amount of atmospheric moisture and a change in directional flow, smoke levels have decreased.
Becker, 68, said about 50 firefighters stayed on his Mount Charleston ranch Wednesday night to put out hot spots.
“It just roared across our property,” he said of the fire. “I don’t think there’s an abundance of fuel to flare up again.”
One of Becker’s partners remained at the ranch and ignored the mandatory evacuation order.
Becker said he doesn’t blame firefighters for the damage to his property. The firefighters cleared brush and cut limbs for days, and air tankers twice dumped retardant on the blaze as it approached his buildings.
“I can’t say enough about the effort they put forth to try and save this,” he said.
Today’s community meeting is planned for 5:30 p.m. at a Pahrump location that has yet to be announced.
In Northern Nevada, a voluntary evacuation order was lifted for residents near a wildfire sparked by lightning July 4 in the mountains near Gardnerville and Carson City. The blaze has covered roughly 43 square miles, is 65 percent contained and cost more than $5.3 million to fight so far.
In Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said Thursday that cutbacks in government forestry budgets have contributed to catastrophic fires in the West.
“Maybe what you do before the fire can be as important as anything else,” Amodei said at a House hearing on wildfires and forest management.
Reporter Steve Tetreault contributed to this report.
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