Published Tuesday, July 9, 2013 | 11:12 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, July 9, 2013 | 10:32 p.m.
Public meetings now scheduled daily
- Agencies fighting the Mount Charleston wildfire have decided to conduct daily meetings to update the more than 500 evacuees chased from their homes on the mountain. The meetings will be at 5:30 p.m. at the Centennial High School auditorium. The school, 10200 W. Centennial Pkwy., is serving as an incident command center for the federal, state and local agencies fighting the fire.
Firefighters battling the wildfire engulfing more than 30 square miles of Mount Charleston faced a tough adversary Tuesday — a 20 mph southwest wind that was gusting to 30 mph.
The winds swept the fire into another 5,000 acres on Tuesday, with flames crossing the main road on the mountain, Kyle Canyon Road, and jumping from the treeline over the road into the desert terrain.
Rich Harvey, incident commander for the Great Basin Incident Command team, told a gathering of evacuated residents Tuesday night at Centennial High School that the wildfire also consumed its first building — a metal outbuilding used to store farming equipment.
However, fire crews have been able to keep the more than 500 homes in the area safe, he said. Another fire official said after Tuesday's burn, the fire footprint now covers about 25,000 acres.
At midafternoon, the fire being pushed by the high winds jumped from south to north over Kyle Canyon Road about the 6 mile marker point and began setting desert plant life aflame, including Joshua trees and desert shrubs.
However, Harvey said that the flatter terrain makes it easier to stop the spread. Fire crews received permission from U.S. Forest Service officials to use bulldozers to plow up ground to create fire breaks and contain the spread. A forest official said the fire got no farther than a quarter mile beyond the roadway.
Meanwhile, a plume of black smoke could be seen at midday from Las Vegas, rising up in contrast to lighter smoke behind it. By nightfall, a giant cloud of smoke from the fire hung heavy over much of the Las Vegas Valley.
Harvey and other federal, state and local officials met with many of the more than 500 evacuees affected by the wildfire during a daily briefing at 5 p.m. at Centennial High School, where fire commanders were plotting strategy. Those heading into the meeting were greeted by occasional pieces of ash drifting into the Las Vegas Valley from the fire.
The cost of fighting the fire, which began July 1 with a lightning strike, has climbed to $4.84 million, twice what it was on Sunday.
More than 800 firefighters split into 19 crews were working Tuesday to keep the fire in check. Officials report firefighters lost ground, falling to 10 percent containment from 15 percent a day earlier. They estimated on Monday that full containment would not be achieved until July 19.
With dropping humidity and rising temperature, flames that had calmed overnight Monday erupted again Tuesday morning.
Flames moved into the Harris Springs area, an area of less fuel on the fire's northeastern flank and where no fire lines had been laid down to prevent its spread, Stone said. The fire has not destroyed any structures, and no one has been injured but it continues to threaten residences in the area, Stone said.
Three fire crews and fire engines are working to protect the Harris Springs area, clearing the structures and area of fire fuel, Stone said.
Stone said the low humidity and dry conditions continue to stoke the fire. Firefighters have been digging fire lines and conducting controlled burns to rob the encroaching fire of new fuel.
Meanwhile, nine helicopters returned to the sky Tuesday — dropping water and fire retardant and shuttling firefighters and supplies — after being grounded Monday due to high winds.
In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., talked about the Mount Charleston fire during a news conference. Reid told reporters he had spoken this weekend with the regional director of the U.S. Forest Service.
“The fire is still far from contained. … I think they did the best they can with the tools they had to work with,” Reid said. “Remember, fighting fire is not easy.”
Closer to home, the community is opening its arms to affected residents.
Cannery Casino Resorts has opened 40 hotel rooms to house Kyle Canyon residents displaced by the fire.
Their stays at the hotel, 2121 E. Craig Road in North Las Vegas, will last 10 days. That’s how long firefighters estimate it will take to contain the fire.
"We are very concerned about the displaced families who have been separated from their homes during these mandatory evacuations," Xavier Walsh, Cannery Casino Resorts chief operating officer, said in a statement.
Many of those displaced residents have taken refuge at a temporary Red Cross shelter at Bilbray Elementary School. Because some families are looking for a private shelter, Cannery Casino Resorts offered the rooms.
"The generosity of the Cannery Casino Resorts comes at a time when the residents of Southern Nevada need it the most," Jeff Brewer, operations director of the American Red Cross of Southern Nevada, said in a statement.
Red Cross officials said the donation was timely, as more families seek shelter from the blaze and wait for emergency crews to clear them to go home.