IN BRIEF

AUG. 11 START DATE

Gibbons appoints new general counsel

Gov. Jim Gibbons has appointed Christopher Nielsen his new general counsel.

Nielsen, 35, has been deputy executive director of the Department of Taxation since 2007. He will be paid $120,000 a year in his new job.

Gibbons’ former general counsel, Josh Hicks, recently became the governor’s chief of staff.

"I’m excited Chris has decided to join my team," Gibbons said. "He has an in-depth knowledge of state law that will help him tackle the wide variety of issues the governor’s office is involved with. I’m confident he will be a tremendous asset as we move into the 2009 legislative session."

Before joining the Department of Taxation, Nielsen was a senior deputy attorney general whose duties included representing the secretary of state on election and business matters.

Nielsen graduated from the University of Nevada with a bachelor’s degree in biology and from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. He will begin his new duties Aug. 11.

PURPLE HEART CONVENTION

VA chief to tour site of new medical complex

Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake will inspect the VA medical complex being built in North Las Vegas during an Aug. 12 visit to the valley, according to the office of Rep. Shelley Berkley.

The Cabinet member will be in Las Vegas that day to speak at the 76th National Convention of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the VA confirmed.

Peake will tour the construction site at Pecos Road and the Las Vegas Beltway. The VA is building a 90-bed hospital and 120-bed nursing home, a $600 million complex that the agency hopes to open in mid-2011.

The convention of Purple Heart award recipients will be at the J.W. Marriott Las Vegas Resort and Spa at Summerlin.

Berkley, D-Nev., sits on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

HENDERSON COMPLEX

Officials investigate apartment fire

Two Henderson apartments were damaged in an afternoon blaze that still has fire investigators seeking answers.

The Henderson Fire Department responded to a noontime call of smoke billowing from an upper-level apartment at 6151 Mountain Vista St., near Ramrod Avenue. A small brush fire flared up behind the Mesa Club Apartments complex.

Fire officials said nobody was home at the time of the blaze.

Crews evacuated and cut utilities to the 16 units in the building. It is unclear how the fire started. Damage was estimated at $450,000, and the fire displaced 10 families.

Henderson and Clark County fire crews extinguished the flames.

NORTH OF RENO

Wildfire threatening wildlife habitat

Crews were hampered by rocky, inaccessible terrain in their battle against a 3,042-acre wildfire that was threatening critical mule deer winter rangeland north of Reno.

Helen Frazier of the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center in Minden said the blaze in the Seven Lakes Mountains was 35 percent contained by early Wednesday afternoon. The fire also was threatening sage grouse, mountain quail and bighorn sheep habitat, and it posed a remote threat to one structure, she said.

The Reno Fire Department placed a team of five engines in the Rancho Haven area.

Fire officials think lightning touched off the blaze Tuesday about three miles east of U.S. Highway 395. It continued to move downhill from the north slopes of the Seven Lakes Mountains toward Dry Valley, Frazier said.

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