ELKO – “It looks like an early fire season.”
That was Elko County Fire Protection District Chief of Prevention Steven Hamilton’s assessment after fighting two wildland fires in the past two days.
Multiple agencies and volunteers responded to a blaze late Monday morning along railroad tracks east of Elko.
Hamilton said two witnesses confirmed that a train started the fire near the Anchor S Ranch, across East Idaho Street from Boss Tanks. Crews quickly set up structure protection as the fire ultimately burned nearly 10 acres of sagebrush.
Brush is regularly cleared around railroad tracks but the 5- or 6-foot strip of gravel apparently wasn’t enough to prevent a spark from setting old-growth sagebrush on fire. Hamilton said some of the brush was more than 6 feet tall and sent up flames 15 or 20 feet high.
U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management worked with city and county firefighters to contain the blaze but they were still working on it late into the afternoon. Ryndon volunteers and a hand crew from Carlin Honor Camp joined them.
On Sunday, firefighters held a blaze off North Fifth Street to one and a quarter acres.
Target shooters are believed to have started the fire on a hillside just before 3 p.m. about 5 miles from the end of the pavement.
“We think it was people shooting,” said Hamilton. The reporting party had tried to extinguish the blaze and was on the scene when firefighters arrived but there was no sign of shooters.
“With the low humidity and winds it took off fairly rapidly,” he said.
Firefighters were on the scene for about four hours, putting out hot spots.
Hamilton said relative humidity has been in the single digits several days over the past week. Elko’s high of 86 on Sunday tied the record for the date.
The Bureau of Land Management was listing fire danger in the Elko area as “moderate,” which Hamilton said sounded about right. “It’s not quite high yet.”
Still, the county is advising everyone to use caution outdoors.
“We’re just asking everyone to be really careful when doing controlled burns or out recreating,” Hamilton said.
Fire season has nearly become a year-round phenomenon in northeastern Nevada. Occasional fires have been reported since February.
Cooler but continued breezy weather is expected Tuesday, followed by a chance of showers Wednesday night into Friday.