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ELKO – A fire in the Ruby Mountains burned more than 15,000 acres in less than two days, and is spreading toward prime mule deer habitat and a popular hiking trail.

The Corta Fire was sparked by lightning on Sunday afternoon. It had burned 15,297 acres as of mid-morning Tuesday, and was still only 5 percent contained.

The fire is burning high into the southern end of the Ruby Mountains at Harrison Pass, where a road leading to a national wildlife refuge was closed to traffic.

“The fire has jumped the Harrison Pass Road and is making a run to the north,” said an update from the Type 3 Incident Management Team in charge of fighting the blaze. “Additional air and ground resources are being ordered and firefighters will continue direct and indirect line construction around the fire perimeter ... and initiate structure protection as needed if fire threatens private ranches.”

The flames are approaching the Green Mountain area, which contains critical mule deer winter range and threatened species.

The Green Mountain Trailhead, which provides access to the Ruby Crest Trail, is threatened and the public is advised to avoid the area.

A total of 230 personnel were fighting the Corta Fire on Tuesday. Four helicopters were in use.

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The fire follows two blazes in the scenic mountain range south of Elko last year, which burned a total of 10,000 acres including more than half of Lamoille Canyon.

Two other large fires were still burning Tuesday out of at least 14 that were started by thunderstorms.

The Shafter Fire south of Interstate 80 in eastern Elko County has burned 4,300 acres. At the extreme northeastern corner of the county, the Goose Fire has burned 6,698 acres. Both blazes are listed at 5 percent contained.

More wildfires could be started this week as another storm system moves into the region.

The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch for all of Elko County and much of the rest of northern Nevada on Thursday.

Dry thunderstorms and gusty winds could begin Wednesday evening and continue into Thursday night.

“Dry lightning may create new fire starts and combine with strong outflow winds to produce rapid fire growth,” stated the weather service.

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