Over 1,000 evacuated in Nevada wildfire start returning home

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Noah Berger

A firefighter sprays water on a burning home as the Mountain View Fire tears through the Walker community in Mono County, Calif., on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

RENO, Nev. – A day after a wind-whipped wildfire in northern Nevada roared through a neighborhood in Reno and destroyed at least five houses, more than 1,000 people who were forced to evacuate — including the mayor — started returning home Wednesday.

Another fire about 100 miles (160 kilometers) south and across the border in California also exploded in strong winds Tuesday, killing one person, driving hundreds from their homes and destroying 80 structures in and around a small community, including some houses.

Rains overnight helped tamp down the flames in both places. Crews in Reno had feared another lashing of strong winds would revive the fire Wednesday, but those conditions subsided. They even got better control of the flames that damaged 15 other structures near the Sierra Nevada foothills. The fire was halfway contained, and they expected to have it fully contained by Friday.

Two firefighters were injured while battling the blaze over 2 square miles (5 square kilometers) but have been treated and released. One suffered an allergic reaction, and the other injured a leg while helping evacuate 1,300 residents.

Extremely dry conditions helped fuel the blaze in rugged, hard-to-reach canyons that run between homes in the densely populated neighborhood, Reno Fire Chief David Cochran said.

“Even though there was literally snow on the ground in some areas, a wind-driven fire like that is almost impossible to stop,” Cochran said.

Nevada is experiencing drought, with much of it in extreme drought, and it's moved in and out of such dry conditions for years. Numerous studies have linked bigger wildfires in America to climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas, which has made parts of the U.S. West much drier and more flammable.

Investigators from the state and Reno fire marshal’s office as well as the utility NV Energy were trying to find the cause of the fire.