ELKO – A wildfire that started in the Rooster’s Comb range north of Battle Mountain scorched 120,000 acres as it raced toward gold mines on the Carlin Trend this week – just like a similar fire did one year ago.
The Hollister Mine was evacuated Tuesday as the Rooster’s Comb Fire approached from the west. No structures have burned but the fire is threatening mines, power lines, wildlife habitat and grazing allotments, according to the Bureau of Land Mangement.
Flames are near Klondex Mines Ltd.’s underground Hollister Mine in northern Elko County, but no miners are threatened because the mine was evacuated Tuesday night.
“The miners were going to return today but the wind shifted so they remain evacuated. The miners will only go back when it is safe,” John Seaberg, senior vice president of investor relations and corporate development, said Wednesday.
The Hollister buildings are inside an old open pit so there has been no fire damage to structures, he said.
Seaberg said Klondex is cooperating with the BLM to contain the fire.
The fire didn’t get near the company’s Midas Mine that is also in northern Elko County, he said.
The Rooster’s Comb Fire has blackened 15,000 to 20,000 acres on Newmont Mining Corp.’s TS Ranch, Jeff White, director of rangelands for Newmont North America and vice president of Newmont’s Elko Land and Livestock, said Wednesday.
He said the TS Ranch’s crews, dozers and a fire truck are helping fight the fire, and Newmont has provided a dozer and operator from mining operations.
“We certainly appreciate the cooperative approach of state, federal and private firefighters,” White said.
“We have fences burned and damaged” but there have been no injuries to people or livestock and no buildings burned, he said. Livestock had to be relocated, however, and the fire has burned into range seeded for rehabilitation.
The fire earlier headed toward Newmont’s North Area operations, but a fire line has diminished the risk there, White said.
The Goldstrike Mine north of Carlin is closely monitoring the Rooster’s Comb fire, but the fire hasn’t reached that area of the Carlin Trend.
“There have been no impacts to operations or ranch properties,” Leslie Maple, manager of communications and corporate affairs for Barrick USA, said Wednesday.
She said there also hasn’t been a lot of smoke to affect underground operations at Barrick’s Meikle Mine, which is at the Goldstrike site.
The company has firefighters from its mine rescue team staged and ready to go at Goldstrike, if needed, Maple said.
Approximately 450 firefighters were battling the Rooster’s Comb Fire, which was listed Wednesday as 15 percent contained.
The fire was started Sunday by lightning. On Tuesday it grew to 120,000 acres in tall grass and brush.
The blaze is similar to the Hot Pot Fire that burned 120,000 acres in the same region in July 2016. That fire was stopped just short of Midas.
On the eastern side of Elko, firefighters were getting the Tabor Flats Fire contained after burning just over 25,000 acres.
The fire 18 miles west of Wells and one mile north of Interstate 80 Exit 333 was started Saturday by lightning. It was listed Wednesday as 95 percent contained.
“We want to thank all the cooperators who have been working hard to get these fires out as efficiently and safely as possible,” said Carrie Thaler, incident commander at Tabor Flats. “These agencies include Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Nevada Division of Forestry, Elko County, and the local ranchers and community who have hosted our staff during this incident.”
All told, the series of fires sparked over the past week or so have burned nearly 300 square miles of mostly rangeland, primarily north of Interstate 80 from east of Winnemucca to west of Elko.
“Fires continue to burn fiercely across Nevada in part because there is a 200 percent to 500 percent increase in the density of cheat grass due to last winter’s rainfall,” the BLM said Wednesday.