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September 2, 2014

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Wildlife, firefighters share ground on Mount Charleston as wildfire rages

Image

Steve Marcus

Deer are shown by the Rainbow subdivision during a media tour on Mount Charleston Tuesday, July 9, 2013.

Mount Charleston Wildfire Tour

Smoke from the Carpenter 1 wildfire is shown from Kyle Canyon Road on the way up to Mount Charleston Tuesday, July 9, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Two deer nervously eyed a line of vehicles traveling down Mount Charleston and skittered away.

They had been standing at the entrance to Rainbow subdivision, the cluster of cabins and A-frame homes on a winding road that had been threatened by wildfire just a day earlier.

Maybe the deer were enjoying the empty neighborhood. Or maybe they had been displaced by the wildfire still burning in a nearby ridge.

Regardless, their presence at the subdivision entrance was a good sign: Danger didn't seem too close. The homes are still standing.

The deer were part of a tour of the firefighting efforts showcased Tuesday to media members.

Firefighters on Monday completed a fire line - a cleared area lined with a water house that, in theory, will stop flames from spreading - around the Rainbow subdivision. Then they started a burnout up the mountainside, away from the homes.

"We took the advantage of the wind and the terrain to burn it back up," said Mark Rabdau, a structure protection specialist with the National Incident Management Team.

When residents return, they will notice some chopped branches and logs on the hillsides surrounding their homes. At noon Tuesday, firefighters were "mopping up" the burnout area, meaning extinguishing small fires.

Further up the mountain, a hotshot crew from Stanislaus County, Calif., was readying its chainsaws to continue cutting a fire line near the Cathedral Rock picnic area on Mount Charleston.

Rabdau said the line should be complete by the end of Tuesday. A contingency line to the north is in place, ready to serve as backup should fire breach the line.

"We don't want it to get breached, that's for sure," he said.

Fire officials said dry conditions have been their biggest foe this week, and the wind has proved erratic at times too.

But unless there is an "imminent safety risk to firefighters," such as a compromised escape route, they will continue their efforts to prevent the wildfire from spreading, said Pete Briant, a firefighter trainee.

At the Kyle Cannon administrative site, thick sheets of aluminum foil cover the government buildings - an effort to save the structures and, thus, save taxpayers' money.

By 1 p.m., thick smoke billowed from Harris Springs, south of Kyle Canyon Road, making the area smell like a campfire.

And for Scott and Kathy Stewart, who live in a home on Kyle Canyon Road, that's not a pleasant scent this week.

"It's unsettling," Scott Stewart said.

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