ELKO — Hunters must stay clear of the South Sugarloaf fire burning more than 200,000 acres of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in northeastern Nevada.
“Public safety is our No. 1 concern, and we don’t want anyone in front of that,” said Erica Hupp, public affairs staff officer for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
The fire affects Nevada Department of Wildlife hunting units 061, 062, 071 and 072. Although it is hunting season, the U.S. Forest Service closed 754,448 acres in the Mountain City and Jarbidge ranger districts.
“The fire is not going to encompass a whole unit,” said Joe Doucette, NDOW conservation educator.
Hunters can scout and hunt on the units outside of the closed area but cannot use any of the closed Forest Service land to access them.
Because of unpredictable fire behavior and fire suppression activities, members of the public are not allowed to use any campgrounds, roads, trail head or trail within the boundary line.
The desire is to “give the firefighters every opportunity to contain this fire as quickly as possible,” Doucette said.
Any member of the public who enters the closed area not only puts him or herself in danger but also detracts from firefighting activities. People found guilty of violating the closure order could receive a maximum fine of $5,000 or six months in jail or both, according to the Forest Service.
Lightning started the South Sugarloaf Fire Aug. 17 about 20 miles southwest of Owyhee.
On Aug. 25, the fire jumped Nevada State Route 225 and burned between the Wildhorse Reservoir Dam and Maggie Creek Road. The highway was closed but reopened Aug. 28.
The next day, high wind prompted the fire to grow to more than 200,000 acres. Voluntary evacuations went into effect.
“We know this is hard on the community,” Hupp said.
The closure order includes all campgrounds, roads, trail heads, and trails west of Forest Road 753 (O’Neil Basin area), north of U.S. Interstate 80, and east of Elko County Road 785/Nevada State Route 226, and south of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation boundary line. Campgrounds closed are Jack Creek, Big Bend, Wildhorse Crossing, Pine Creek, and Sawmill Campgrounds.
Firefighters made progress on the fire Monday due to cooler temperatures, higher humidity and lighter winds.
Once the area is deemed safe, the Forest Service plans to decrease the closure order.