Crews hope to contain Mount Charleston fire by July 19

They hit Las Vegas like a bunch of management shock troopers Saturday night, hoping to subdue the mammoth blaze raging through the Spring Mountains

On Monday, Rich Harvey’s Great Basin National Incident Management Team 2 was still focused on its primary goal: stopping the Carpenter Canyon fire that now encompasses 15,268 acres.

The fire has continued to grow as temperatures rise and humidity remains at an extreme low, but crews aim to have the blaze 100 percent contained by July 19, according to team spokesman James Stone.

“Our priority is to keep it out of Kyle Canyon, so we’re concentrating our efforts to work on that,” Stone said Monday.

Harvey’s crew isn’t from Las Vegas. They come from all corners of the Western United States, including Northern Nevada, Utah and Idaho. In less than two days, they knew the mountain range better than most locals. They have to.

The team starts early with morning briefings at 6 that prep the division and unit commanders before they head out to fight the fire. While the 360 firefighters work to control the fire from the front lines, Harvey’s team digs into the constant flow of information to figure out how to best attack the blaze.

They digest infrared maps that detail the perimeter of the fire and show hot spots that could be dangerous.

They look at forecasts, hoping to use the weather to their advantage or prepare crews if conditions mean extra danger.

They handle the logistics, figure out the finances and even make plans to feed firefighters the 6,000 to 8,500 calories per day they each need to maintain their strength while battling the blaze during shifts that can last 16 hours amid the heat and on incredibly rugged terrain.

By 7 p.m., another briefing. A few hours of sleep, and the incident management team is back on the job early the next morning to start all over again.

Due in part to his team’s dedicated involvement, the fire was at 15 percent containment Monday evening.

Monday was not easy for the crews, said Harvey, who is based in Boise, Idaho. Little progress was made, but no ground was lost either.

Heavy smoke billowing from Kyle Canyon deterred Harvey’s team from being able to fully utilize air operations.

The Carpenter Canyon fire is a top priority in the Western Great Basin geographic area covering most of Nevada, and No. 2 in the country.

A wildfire near Fairbanks, Alaska, remains the top priority fire nationally as of Monday afternoon because of the threat to life and property it poses, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

The fire crew, which totals 841 including firefighters, continued Monday to drop flame retardant on the west side of the mountain where inaccessible land, which Harvey calls “goat rock country,” has made it difficult to battle the blaze.

Fire crews received the flame retardant at the North Las Vegas Airport, except the very large air tanker, which comes from San Bernardino, Calif., filled with retardant. Firefighters are using wells above the U.S. Forest Service’s new campground on Mount Charleston to supply the water used to suppress the fire, said Madonna Lengerich, a team spokeswoman.

More than 20 crews, 10 of them hot shot firefighters, 39 engines, two dozers and eight helicopters are aiding the fire containment effort. The crews came from Wyoming, California, Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico and Nevada to help fight the fire.

The battle to suppress the wildfire has cost $2.4 million to date. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized federal funding to reimburse Nevada 75 percent of the cost of fire containment, according to a news release.

The state filled out a request for FEMA assistance on Friday for the Carpenter Canyon fire, which has threatened 350 homes in Trout and Kyle canyons and also the endangered Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly, the news release stated.

“We’re not really sure what the damage is right now, but the burning over could definitely have a big impact on the species,” said Jennifer Brickey of the U.S. Forest Service.

While more resources head up the mountain to fight the fire, the weather is heating up and drying out on the mountain, which could hinder suppression efforts.

“The firefighters are struggling to keep hydrated in the heat,” Harvey said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Metzger said that Monday and today were going to be very dry, and that could help the fire spread.

The rain that washed over parts of the valley Sunday did not reach the mountain, and by Monday, there was no moisture or cloud cover, according to the fire information center.

“Most of the rain was confined to the east side of the valley,” Metzger said. “If they got any rain, it would’ve been one or two drops.”

Temperatures were expected to be in the upper 80s with gusts of wind at 30 mph.

Winds were expected to die down overnight and pick up again today .

The Clark County Department of Air Quality has issued an advisory until Sunday because of smoke from the fire, local weather conditions and the existing level of pollutants.

A public meeting is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. today in the Centennial High School auditorium for residents to get more information on the fire.

In Northern Nevada, the “Bison” wildfire grew from 8,000 acres to nearly 17,000 Sunday due to high winds.

According to the Great Basin Management Type II Team battling the fire, containment on Monday was at 15 percent, down from 30 percent earlier in the weekend.

The new projected containment date is July 14, almost a week later than previously thought.

Wind activity similar to Sunday is expected to continue.

Contact Rochel Leah Goldblatt at rgoldblatt@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638. Follow him on Twitter @clochhead44.

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