Las Vegas Sun

December 11, 2018

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Illegal campfire blamed for 20-acre Mount Charleston blaze


Sam Morris

Traffic heads down the mountain as a fire burns on Mount Charleston Thursday, July 1, 2010.

Updated Friday, July 2, 2010 | 9:14 a.m.

Mount Charleston Fire

A man who declined to be identified waits out an evacuation for a fire on Mount Charleston Thursday, July 1, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Trees on Fire at Mount Charleston


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Cathedral Rock picnic area

An illegal campfire was blamed Friday for a wildfire that spread to 20 acres in the Mount Charleston wilderness, forcing evacuations and closing roads since Thursday morning.

Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon said this morning the Cathedral Fire in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is 30 percent contained. About 250 firefighters were working to suppress the blaze. No homes were being threatened this morning.

No structures have been damaged and no injuries have been reported since the fire was reported Thursday morning.

Metro Police late Thursday reopened the lower Kyle Canyon area to residents who live between U.S. 95 and Scotte Street. Police said residents will need to show identification to officers showing that they live in the area.

No additional roads were reopened Friday morning. Metro spokesman Bill Cassell said authorities will re-evaluate the situation at about 6 p.m. to decide whether more roads will be opened.

Trails and picnic spots in the Kyle Canyon area will remain closed today, officials said. Lee Canyon is open.

Cannon said winds Thursday night were moving the flames away from structures in the area.

The Cathedral Fire was reported at 11:01 a.m. Thursday in Kyle Canyon. Metro Police had closed both highways leading to the Mount Charleston area -- state roads 156 and 157 -- for several hours.

State Road 156 was reopened Thursday night, but westbound State Road 157 is closed at Scotte Street, and State Road 158 is closed at the intersection with State Road 156, Metro Police said.

The fire had burned between three and five acres at noon Thursday but grew to 15 acres by the evening and was estimated at 20 acres this morning. Cassell said officers went door-to-door to evacuate the Cathedral Rock, Echo, Old Town and Rainbow areas, as well as the Mount Charleston Lodge.

"There are a lot of resources staged strategically to attack the fire should it move in any given direction," Cassell said Thursday.

Residents in those areas were not allowed home this morning. Evacuees can go to Brinley or Scherkenback elementary schools, near State Road 157 and U.S. 95, police said.

An evacuation center was set up Thursday at Bilbray Elementary School, 9370 Brent Lane, in the northwest valley, but the school's cafeteria looked much like it would any other summer day: empty, aside from several long lunch tables.

The American Red Cross was ready with about 50 cots and blankets at the school in case residents of areas near the fire needed shelter.

Evelyn Chavers, a member of the American Red Cross disaster assistance team, said even if no one needed her assistance, the Red Cross was ready to help.

"We're just prepared, and we're prepared to come back," she said.

Rumors that Girl Scouts were headed to a school after leaving their campsite also didn't pan out.

Click to enlarge photo

Evacuated traffic heads down the mountain as a fire burns on Mount Charleston Thursday, July 1, 2010.

The fire's intensity began to slow during the middle afternoon Thursday, said Ray Johnston, a U.S. Forest Service fire prevention specialist.

Because of where the fire is located, only one air tanker was able to fight the fire, Johnston said, and it was a small single-engine plane similar to a crop duster.

A helicopter was also called in, and fire engines are in the Rainbow subdivision protecting homes, Johnston said.

The fire is at about 7,200 feet in elevation, he said. About 40 Metro officers assisted with the evacuation.

Cannon said Thursday the fire was about 1,000 feet from any homes, but no damage was reported.

The Clark County Department of Air Quality and Environmental Management on Thursday issued an air pollution alert as a result of the fire.

The department said unhealthy levels of air pollution are a result of the smoke from the fire, local weather conditions and existing levels of pollutants. The alert will be in effect until the fire is under control, the department said.

The U.S. Forest Service evacuated all trailheads in Upper Kyle Canyon and Cathedral Rock as well as the Cathedral Rock picnic area as the fire broke out. That followed the closure of all trails and picnic areas in the Mount Charleston areas.

About 100 firefighters were assigned to the fire, including structure engines, wildland fire engines, hand crews and a single engine air tanker. Las Vegas Fire and Rescue reported dispatching 45 firefighters and 13 units to protect three subdivisions and the Mount Charleston Lodge.

A Metro Police search and rescue team was called to help locate campers and hikers in the area. The team didn't have to make rescues, although Cassell said one group of hikers "self-rescued" and was unharmed.

The National Weather Service reported breezy conditions were likely again on Friday in the Mount Charleston area, with gusts up to 34 mph. Forecasters had issued an advisory indicating a critical fire danger in Southern Nevada because of high winds and low humidity.

Resources being used to battle the fire include two helicopters, one air attack platform, six hand crews, seven wildland fire engines, three structure fire engines and one water tender. Firefighters are from Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah. Resources and staff from U.S. Forest Service, Nevada Division of Forestry, Bureau of Land Management, Clark County, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas are assigned to the fire.

Sun reporter Jackie Valley contributed to this report.

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