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Residents pick up pieces after massive fire in Reno

RENO — Austin and Sarah Hardage’s home is burned to its foundations — the sad aftermath of an early morning conflagration that raged through an area of southwest Reno.

But in a twist that played out over and over during the 2,000-acre fire, neighboring houses on either side were untouched by flames.

“It’s just amazing — Murphy’s Law,” Austin Hardage said Saturday afternoon. “It didn’t even touch either house on either side. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Their home is among the 32 that were destroyed by the unusual, out-of-season blaze that spread by gale-force winds Friday in the foothills in Reno.

The fire was 95 percent contained by midday Sunday, and fire crews from throughout the region were focusing on a few lingering hot spots, Sierra Fire Protection District Mike Brown said. They also were repairing areas where vegetation was burned and hillsides damaged by bulldozers in an effort to prevent mudslides.

Officials are cautioning people to be wary of scam artists posing as contractors offering inexpensive repairs. Washoe County sheriff’s spokesman Armando Avina said the scammers “prey on victims of tragedy” and usually ask for money upfront.

Gov. Brian Sandoval was among several leaders who opined on Saturday that it was a miracle that scores more homes weren’t lost. There are about 4,000 homes in the area.

“When you see something like that, you can’t help but be struck by the awesome and random power of nature,” Sandoval said about the blackened path of the fire that snaked along the edge of the foothills.

At times, the fire was moving 20 to 30 mph, and embers were jumping more than a mile, Reno Fire Chief Mike Hernandez said.

No official cause has been determined, but Hernandez said all signs point to arcing power lines. ” It roared down the mountains and then ran down along the foothills,” Hernandez said.

Many families “had to leave in the middle of the night with very, very limited possessions, and they are coming back to devastation, to nothing,” he said. “So our hearts and prayers go out to those families.”

Austin Hardage explained how they awoke to a smoky, orange glow through the windows about 2 a.m. Friday.

With flames speeding down the hillside behind the Hardages’ house, they decided to grab some clothes and the pets and flee, joining nearly 10,000 other southwest Reno residents in an evacuation.

“Three computers, two dogs and two rabbits. That’s pretty much all we have now,” Austin Hardage said .

He said he has been offered some replacement text books for his last four weeks of his senior year in pursuit of an engineering degree at the University of Nevada, Reno. But his notes and several homework assignments were burned.

“And I was all caught up,” he said. “I had to email my professor to say I wasn’t going to be there because my house was on fire.”

Josh Loftin of The Associated Press contributed to this story from Salt Lake City.

 

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