RENO — A fast-growing wildfire roaring through dry grass kept fire crews busy Monday amid heat and high wind in a remote part of Northern Nevada.
Flames the size of a four-story building torched nearly 625 square miles of cattle-grazing land and habitat for the imperiled sage grouse near the border with Oregon and Idaho, said Norm Rooker with the fire’s Incident Management Team.
The blaze is being fed largely by tall, dry cheatgrass that’s 10 times more plentiful than normal in some spots after a low-snow winter failed to tamp down a bumper crop from last year, he said.
“It’s like they’ve thrown a match on gasoline. It’s burning that intense, that hot, that quickly,” he said.
Police are investigating what started the fire and looking for anyone camping in the sparsely populated ranching area on July 4.
The blaze has come close to at least four ranches, but crews have been able to protect them, Rooker said. It’s not threatening populated areas, but the scorched land left behind will likely take years to recover, he said.
Hundreds of firefighters are battling the blaze through rolling, rocky hills with the help of water-scooping aircraft. They’re working through low humidity, hot temperatures and strong winds.
The fire was about 8 percent contained as of Sunday night. But crews are making progress on setting up containment lines to keep it from spreading further, Rooker said.