Size of mountain fire downgraded to 3,000 acres


Christopher DeVargas

A plane drops fire retardant on the Mahogany fire at Mount Charleston, Monday, June 29, 2020. .

Mon, Jun 29, 2020 (3:25 p.m.)

With improved weather conditions, firefighters made progress today battling a wildfire near Mount Charleston, according to a U.S. Forest Service official.

The Mahogany Fire, initially estimated at 5,000 acres, was listed as covering about 3,000 acres today, according to the Forest Service.

The reduction was credited to more accurate mapping.

As of Sunday night — as wind gusts topped 60 mph — the fire was uncontained.

Ray Johnson, an information officer for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, said today that a containment update was not available.

Johnson said no injuries were reported as of this afternoon.

“The weather has been the major change,” Johnson said. “The winds are not nearly as strong as (Sunday) and temperatures are much cooler, which helps our efforts be a little bit more productive.”

The cause of the fire was under investigation, but it could have been started by human activity, Johnson said.

Due to the strong winds, firefighters weren’t able to battle the fire from the air Sunday, though a number of tanker planes with fire retardant were used today, Johnson said.

“We also have a couple of hotshot crews digging lines this morning and throughout the afternoon,” said Johnson, who noted about 80 firefighters have responded to the blaze.

The fire prompted evacuations, road closures and power outages Sunday. Smoke could be seen from many parts of the Las Vegas Valley.

Thomas Schneekloth, general manager of the Mount Charleston Lodge, said the fire crept up on staff and visitors at the lodge at Kyle Canyon.

He said close to 200 people were at the property — which sits at an elevation of about 7,700 feet — when signs of the fire became noticeable.

Fire crews were summoned at about 2:40 p.m. Sunday to an area near Archery Range and Deer Creek roads, officials said.

“At about 1:30 or 2 p.m., we started to see the plumes,” Schneekloth said. “By 3 p.m., it was a pretty massive-looking plume. We realized that it was time then to start to shut down and start the evacuation process, which we did. We got everyone off the mountain safely.”

Schneekloth, who has worked at the lodge for more than a decade, said the blaze reminded him of the Carpenter 1 blaze that broke out on Mount Charleston in 2013.

That fire, sparked by lightning, burned for more than a month and eventually engulfed about 28,000 acres.

Johnson said the blaze burning now is displaying “extreme fire behavior,” which means, in part, that wind-blown flames are jumping from treetop to treetop.

Schneekloth said the wind Sunday was “shaking shaking the building to its core. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was trying for a few moments. There were moments of major concern for sure.”

NV Energy, which shut off power in the area as a precaution Sunday, placed generators at the lodge, Schneekloth said.

In a tweet at about 2 p.m. today, NV Energy said power remained out for customers in the Mount Charleston area at the request of fire officials. It was expected to be restored late Tuesday evening, according to the tweet.

A Nevada Highway Patrol tweet today said Route 157 to Kyle Canyon and Route 156 to Lee Canyon had reopened, though Route 158 remained closed.

Schneekloth said that he expected the lodge to reopen for business Tuesday morning.

The Forest Service asked Southern Nevada residents and visitors to keep safety in mind when celebrating the Fourth of July holiday this week.

“This kind of fire behavior is showing how dry it is here in Southern Nevada,” Johnson said. “We’re seeing before our eyes how quickly things can become very dangerous.”

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