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Officials estimate Mount Charleston wildfire won’t be contained until July 19

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Steve Marcus

Smoke from the Mount Charleston wildfire makes for a fiery sunset Monday, July 8, 2013.

Updated Monday, July 8, 2013 | 5 p.m.

Mount Charleston Fire - July 8

Rod Collins, an operation section chief for the National Incident Management Team briefs the night shift firefighters before they head out to the Carpenter 1 wildfire from Centennial High School on Monday, July 8, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Wildfire Smoke Makes for Fiery Sunset

Smoke from the Mount Charleston wildfire makes for a fiery sunset Monday, July 8, 2013. Launch slideshow »

As drier, windy weather settled Monday onto Mount Charleston, officials said they don’t expect to contain the vast wildfire there until July 19.

The estimated containment date – 11 days away and nearly three weeks from when the fire started – was included in an update from the Joint Information Center to area media.

The news confirmed what Rich Harvey, incident commander for the Great Basin Incident Management team, had warned Sunday night in a meeting with evacuees forced from their Mount Charleston homes.

“We know this is not a one-day event,” Harvey told the evacuees. “It’s going to be a grind; we know it. We’re ready for the grind.”

The fire, which was ignited seven days ago by a lightning strike, has spread to more than 15,000 acres, the Joint Information Center announced Monday afternoon. Harvey is leading a firefighting effort that involves more than 750 people, including federal, state and local personnel.

Harvey termed called Mount Charleston the No. 1 wildfire priority in the nation.

U.S. Forest Service officials say 501 structures are at risk. Thus far, no structures have been lost to the fire, which is spreading among the pinyon juniper that dots the mountain’s landscape.

The greatest area of concern, officials said Monday, is the portion of the fire that extends to the east, south of Kyle Canyon Road. Crews will work to keep the fire from dropping into Kyle Canyon, preventing an end run west up Kyle Canyon Road. Toward that end, firefighters Sunday night constructed and held a firebreak that kept flames at bay from the Rainbow Canyon subdivision, which runs south of Kyle Canyon Road and is east of the largest residential neighborhoods near the top of Kyle Canyon Road and its terminus at the Mount Charleston Lodge.

The second area of concern, they said, is the northwest line of the fire on the Pahrump side of the mountain. Aircraft will be dropping retardant along a mostly inaccessible ridge line in an effort to stop the fire's spread. Hand crews will be working the southern end of this fire edge as they are able to safely gain access, backing up the retardant efforts.

Priorities will shift should there be movement of the fire toward any structures, particularly in the Kyle Canyon area.

The high temperature was 81 degrees Monday at the National Weather Service recording station in Kyle Canyon on Mount Charleston, but westerly wind gusts of 20 to 33 mph blew throughout much of the day. Tuesday's forecast called for highs near 83 with southwesterly winds from 17 to 20 mph. The extended forecast calls for a chance of rain beginning Wednesday and continuing into the weekend on the mountain.

As of 1:45 p.m. Monday, 753 personnel, including support services, were involved in the firefighting effort. Officials report 18 firefighting crews are on scene, eight of which are Type 1 Hotshot crews, the most highly trained.

Equipment employed in the firefight are:

• Seven helicopters

• Four heavy air tankers

• 39 engines

• Two bulldozers

• 10 water tenders, or tanker trucks.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service has scheduled another public meeting Monday night.

The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. in the Centennial High School auditorium. Centennial, 10200 W. Centennial Pkwy., is serving as a command center for firefighting operations.

More than 500 residents of communities on the mountain have been evacuated.

The Mount Charleston fire has received the attention of federal emergency managers, who have declared it a major disaster, opening the gates for federal assistance with firefighting efforts.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved Gov. Brian Sandoval's request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant, which allows for cost-sharing on eligible firefighting resources. The office of Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., announced FEMA's approval in a news release Monday.

The fire, which has grown to 15,286 acres, is estimated to be 15 percent contained.

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