- Associated Press - Monday, May 19, 2014

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Three helicopters dumped water on a wildfire burning on the edge of Reno on Monday as about 150 firefighters on the ground were getting the upper hand on the blaze, pushing the flames back into the rugged wilderness along the Sierra’s eastern front. No homes or structures were threatened.

The fire that broke out Saturday night above the foothills in southwest Reno had burned more than a square mile of timber, grass and mountain brush by Monday morning.

Sierra Front Interagency spokeswoman Elizabeth Kenna said crews had dug fire lines around only about 5 percent of the fire and had no prediction when it would be fully contained.

Helicopters were assisting, but the attack was limited primarily to hand crews armed with picks and shovels digging lines across the hillside because the federally protected Mount Rose Wilderness Area is part of a roadless area in the Humboldt Toiyabe-National Forest about 20 miles northeast of Lake Tahoe.

“The fire is currently inaccessible to engines due to roadless area,” Kenna said in a statement. “Helicopters are doing bucket work and transporting crews for fire suppression.”

Authorities earlier estimated it had burned 158 acres, but Kenna said they increased the estimated burn area to 728 acres after getting a better view from the air Monday morning.

The fire was producing much less smoke than it did the day before, when a large plume rose above the Reno skyline and blew east toward town.

Area trails were evacuated Sunday afternoon, when the blaze quickly grew in winds gusting in excess of 30 mph.

Sierra Front spokesman Brian Reublinger said winds were expected to pick up again after noon Monday, but afternoon precipitation was also in the forecast.

“Hopefully that will help with containment,” he told KRNV-TV. “The fire is still several miles away and we don’t see any threat at this time. We’re hoping it is going to stay in the wilderness, and that’s our plan to keep it there.”

Investigators aren’t sure how the fire started, but it likely was human-caused because there was no lightning in the area.

Forest Service spokesman Jon Stonelake told the Reno Gazette-Journal a camp fire was reported in the area around Hunter Creek late Saturday night, but it’s unknown whether that contributed to the fire.

The Forest Service issued a formal closure notice Monday afternoon for trails and roads in the national forest in the Hunter Lake and Hunter Falls area between southwest Reno and the wilderness area.

The fire also caused at least one cancellation - a Sierra Front interagency training session that had been scheduled for Wednesday.

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