Wildfires raging near Las Vegas
Las Vegas • A fire sparked by lightning burned out of control for a fifth day Friday, forcing 520 people to evacuate their homes in small communities in the Spring Mountains near Las Vegas as firefighters on the ground struggled in steep rock terrain and an aerial assault continued from above.
The Carpenter 1 Fire northwest of Las Vegas grew to 9,000 acres, or 14 square miles, by early Friday afternoon, according to the Forest Service. Winds were expected to pick up and gust to 35 mph later in the day.
No injuries have been reported and no structures have burned. Flames that had been inching close to homes in the Trout Canyon area were staved off by pre-emptive burns that destroyed the fire's fuel, according to Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Hillerie Patton, although she said the fire was zero percent contained.
Smoke from the blaze blanketed the Las Vegas Valley in a gray pall, prompting Clark County officials to issue an air-quality advisory through Friday. Officials in southern Utah reported some of the smoke had drifted eastward and was hanging over Zion National Park.
More than 300 people are working on the firefighting effort, while three small air tankers and a behemoth VLAT an acronym meaning very large air tanker tried to slow the flames from the air.
A DC-10 aircraft can drop 11,700 gallons of retardant in one swoop; the planes are recent additions to the nation's firefighting arsenal.
Forest Service officials said the Trout and Kyle canyon communities are under evacuation orders, while Lee Canyon was open to residents only. A community meeting was scheduled Friday night in Pahrump.
Roads and trails in the area were closed, as was all access to Mount Charleston Peak.
Firefighters in northern Nevada were working to gain ground on the Bison Fire, burning in the Pine Nut Mountains in Douglas County.
Breezy conditions throughout the day Friday fanned the fire and created a towering, churning smoke plume that was visible for miles. By afternoon it had grown to an estimated 1,400 acres, or about two square miles.
The fire erupted Thursday afternoon after a series of thunderstorms rolled across the northern Nevada region, bringing lightning and widely scattered rain and hail that varied in intensity from a few drops in some places to gully-washing downpours in others.
After two years of drought and several days earlier this week of triple-digit temperatures, vegetation is tinder dry and fire conditions are extreme.
A few dozen homes tucked near the foothills of the Pine Nuts were threatened briefly when the fire first broke out, but changing winds on Friday pushed the fire to the north. No structures have been damaged and no injuries were reported.
About 350 firefighters on the ground were being aided by three helicopters, five single engine air tankers, one air attack plane and four bulldozers. The fire is burning in a mix of pinion and juniper trees.
Associated Press reporter Sandra Chereb in Carson City, Nev., contributed to this report.