RENO, Nev. – Firefighters battling a massive wildfire in southwestern Reno were aided Saturday by easing winds and a light dusting of snow, stamping out parts of a massive blaze that has scorched more than 2,000 acres and prompted the evacuation of thousands of people.
Chilly temperatures, calmer winds and snow flurries have increased hopes that the fire will be totally contained over the weekend, WTMA-TV reported.
The fire broke out just after midnight Friday and quickly ripped through some 400 acres in Toiyabe National Forest near Caughlin, a residential area in southwest Reno. By Friday afternoon it had more than quadrupled in size.
Police went door to door asking people to evacuate homes in the area and some 10,000 people were displaced, many taking up temporary shelter at two area high schools. At least 25 homes were destroyed, KTVN-TV reported.
The fire was blamed for at least one death. A 74-year-old man died when he suffered a heart attack and lost control of his car while trying to flee the sudden wildfire with his wife.
Sixteen people were admitted to area hospitals, mostly with smoke inhalation problems, KTVN-TV reported, and both Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and the city of Reno declared a state of emergency Friday morning, clearing the way for federal assistance.
Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez said officials were exploring a number theories about what sparked the fire, which was pushed along by 60mph winds, including the possibility it was started by collapsed power lines, by fires lit by homeless people for warmth, or by teenagers.
The area is a known "party area" for teenagers, Hernandez added.
Hernandez said firefighters had saved about 4,000 houses and late Friday afternoon they had stopped the blaze from spreading, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
"We are actually backtracking and going over areas that have burned and extinguishing hot spots," Hernandez said.
Senator Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was "deeply saddened by the devastating fires in Reno that have displaced families and destroyed homes. My thoughts are with all the families that have been affected by this terrible disaster."
NV Energy said thousands of customers were without power and restoration could take days.
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