Hunter Falls Fire burns over 700 acres

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Hunter Falls Fire burns over 700 acres

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Photo by Dale Andrews.

As of late Tuesday morning, the most recent report of the Hunter Falls Fire burning in Southwest Reno indicates it has burned 760 acres. The fire is at 47% contained and crews expect to have full containment by Friday.

High up in the canyon above Hunter Falls is a difficult place to fight fires. This blaze stretches into the Mount Rose Wilderness, which has almost no roads. When the agencies first got word of the fire late Saturday night, they had to wait before sending in crews because the dark and the terrain was hard to map.

Bill Dunkelberger is the Supervisor for Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

"Before we put boots on the ground, we had to assess from the air so it took awhile to get the heliopter resources to be available and to get them up over the fire, so yeah, it's more challenging and we look at the values at risk, and the fire is not that far from the city of Reno, so that's obviously a very large value at risk," Dunkelberger says.

Dunkelberger says they have contingency plans in case the fire did move toward Reno, although that seemed unlikely, especially as the winds died down and more clouds rolled in. More than a hundred firefighters, including several elite Hotshot Crews, have been attacking the fire the last couple of days, either from the ground or the air. Dunkelberger says some of that area has burned relatively recently, which is good because there's less fuel up there. But this is just the beginning of a very bad season.

"To see a fire of this magnitude this early in the year is a little scary," Dunkelberger says. "And we're seeing fuel moisture about as dry right now in the middle of May as they would normally be by the end of September."

Dunkelberger says they may go into stage 1 fire restrictions quite soon. That means essentially no fires anywhere except for very developed places. Right now, there aren't any restrictions in place, including in the area of the Hunter Falls Fire.

"Normally we don't go into any kind of restriction until toward the end of June or before the Fourth of July, and that was the case last year, for example," Dunkelberger says. "However, this year, we're already seeing the fuel moisture, the drought, the weather and the kind of fire behavior that we just observed on this fire, definitely warrants going into fire restrictions earlier."

They don't yet known the cause of the fire, but there wasn't any lighting beforehand.