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Wildfire on Mount Charleston scorches 5,000 acres near Las Vegas

Updated June 29, 2020 - 8:19 am

A wind-fueled wildfire swept through Mount Charleston on Sunday, claiming thousands of acres and sending up a plume of smoke that could be seen across the Las Vegas Valley.

Related: Mount Charleston wildfire likely caused by humans, fire official says

The Mahogany Fire started as a 10-acre brush fire near Archery Range and Deer Creek roads about 2:40 p.m. Deer Creek Road connects Kyle Canyon and Lee Canyon roads.

By 7:30 p.m., the fire had consumed 5,000 acres and was at zero percent containment, according to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Mike Welch said evacuations at Lee Canyon were voluntary.

Ray Johnson, a fire prevention officer for the U.S. Forest Service, said crews are expected to arrive overnight.

“They may be starting suppression operations tonight, but that will depend on weather,” Johnson said.

High winds and a lack of resources meant conditions were unsafe for firefighters on Sunday, he said.

Johnson said officials expect winds to drop off Monday, which would allow for the use of air support. Winds on Sunday prevented aircraft from flying in the area, he said.

He said fire activity should drop overnight with temperatures falling, humidity rising and winds letting up.

The cause of the fire is unknown, he said.

Strong winds moved into the Las Vegas Valley on Sunday, with gusts of up to 40 mph recorded at McCarran International Airport. The National Weather Service issued a 12-hour wind advisory that started at 11 a.m. Sunday.

The Spring Mountain Youth Camp, 2400 Angel Peak Place, was evacuated, according to the Clark County Fire Department.

The fire also forced “hard closures” on Deer Creek, Kyle Canyon and Lee Canyon roads for at least 72 hours, the Nevada Highway Patrol tweeted late Sunday.

Temporary shelter

NV Energy tweeted just before 4:30 p.m. that power lines at Mount Charleston have been de-energized at the request of fire officials. The company said power would be restored “when it is safe to do so,” which could be Monday.

The Red Cross has opened an evacuation center for displaced residents at Bilbray Elementary School, 9370 Brent Lane.

Alan Diskin, executive director of the Red Cross of Southern Nevada, said the center was up and running by 9 p.m., but no families had arrived by 11. He said the Red Cross expects some families to come to the center overnight because power is shut off.

When families arrive at the center they’ll be assigned a case manager who will help determine what services they need — clothing, toiletries, food, shelter.

But shelter services look a little different now because of COVID-19.

Diskin said the Red Cross used to set up large shelters that could house many affected families, but now, in an effort to maintain social distancing, they’re partnering with Boyd Gaming Corp. to put families up in a hotel room as long as they need shelter.

The Fire Department said the Mount Charleston Fire Protection District, the U.S. Forest Service and the Las Vegas Fire Department are responding. There were no reported injuries as of about 4:50 p.m.

Chelsea Abate was on her way to the Mount Charleston Lodge when she spotted white pillars of smoke Sunday afternoon.

“At first we didn’t know what it was, but then once it started turning darker, we knew it was a wildfire,” she said.

She said people appeared to be calm walking back to their cars from their hikes. Abate also said she saw staff from the lodge evacuate the parking lot.

“You could smell the smoke in the air,” Abate said.

She didn’t feel like she was in danger, she said, because winds were blowing away from her location.

Meanwhile, a fire that began Friday night just northwest of Reno had burned nearly 5½ square miles of grass and brush as of Sunday with 10 percent containment.

Sunday’s fire on Mount Charleston ignited nearly seven years to the date of the beginning of the massive Carptenter 1 fire, which burned for more than a month and claimed nearly 28,000 acres of the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.

Contact Alexis Ford at aford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexisdford on Twitter. Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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