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Firefighters make gains against blaze near Reno

RENO — Calmer winds and cooler temperatures Wednesday helped firefighters gain ground on a wildland fire south of Reno.

After a helicopter mapped the fire area, officials reduced the size of the fire to 962 acres, or 1.5 square miles, down from an earlier estimate of 1,200 acres, fire spokesman Steve Frady said.

The Skinner fire was 75 percent contained by midday, and full containment was expected by nightfall, Frady said.

Though conditions remained breezy Wednesday, the wind was tame compared to the gale-force winds that created havoc a day earlier.

Roughly 250 firefighters remained on the scene Wednesday, but most were scheduled to be released at the end of the day, Frady said.

He said a skeletal crew would keep watch overnight for hot spots and flare-ups.

Authorities suspect the fire was sparked by a power line downed Tuesday afternoon by fierce winds.

Flames whipped by gusts nearing 70 mph quickly burned through thigh-high brush and grasses on the northeast side of Washoe Valley, 15 miles south of Reno.

The fire briefly forced the closure of U.S. Highway 395, the main highway between Reno and Nevada’s capital, Carson City, during the evening rush hour.

Students at an elementary school in nearby Pleasant Valley also were evacuated as a precaution.

Firefighters kept the flames from four hillside homes, though a pump house and shed were burned.

Five firefighters were treated at a local hospital for eye irritations caused by blowing ash and embers, officials said.

Tuesday’s strong winds grounded firefighting helicopters and airplanes. By Wednesday, the aerial equipment was not needed, Frady said.

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