Nevada wildfire destroys 22 homes

Posted at 8:22 AM, Oct 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-16 10:22:15-04

By Pete Burn and Joe Sutton


(CNN) — More than 1,000 firefighters are battling to contain a wildfire in western Nevada that has burned about 3,400 acres since Friday and remains 20% contained.

The Little Valley Fire near Lake Tahoe has destroyed 22 homes and more than a dozen outbuildings, local officials said.

Firefighters struggled with the blaze that began Friday morning as later that night, wind gusts hit up to 87 mph. Four injuries from smoke inhalation were reported on the first day of the blaze.

“Can you imagine trying to put a fire out in the middle of a hurricane without the rain and a fire in your face? That’s about as scary as it gets,” fire information officer Mark Struble told CNN on Saturday.

But he said the fire could have been a lot worse. “We got a little rain, about a third of an inch, which really helped slow it down.”

Heavy rainfall is expected Sunday, but it could also trigger debris flow and rock falls in the burned areas, according to local authorities.

Wind could blow sparks

Struble said the wind expected Saturday would blow the fire in on itself, which would help. But he expressed concern the wind could blow sparks that would send the blaze racing into another direction.

He said firefighters worked all night to dig around the fire line.

“The fire has moderated. Most of the smoke is from the interior of the burn from the big trees,” he said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Nevada Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security said 500 structures were threatened, CNN affiliate KOLO-TV in Reno reported earlier.

Governor declares state of emergency

Some evacuations are in effect, and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has declared a state of emergency in the area.

“Declaring a State of Emergency allows us to increase capacity and resources to manage the fires,” Washoe County Assistant County Manager Kevin Schiller said in a statement.

“We thank our emergency responders who are working hard to protect citizens. Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by these fires.”

The fire is burning on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, west of Washoe Lake. It was one of three in the area Friday, officials said.