RENO, Nev. – A cloud of grayish-white smoke settled over upscale homes and horse pastures at Reno’s edge Friday as firefighters from across Nevada came close to taming a sudden wildfire that sent 16 people to hospitals and destroyed or damaged 25 houses.
The unexplained blaze also gave a firefighter first- and second-degree burns and was blamed for the death of a 74-year-old man who had a heart attack while trying to flee. But authorities said the worst was likely over as growing snow flurries and falling temperatures stoked hopes that the remaining showers of ember and ash would die down.
Reno Fire Chief Mike Hernandez said firefighters had largely contained the blaze that sent nearly 10,000 people from their homes in the middle of the night and sent flames licking the edges of the region’s mountain roads.
“We are actually backtracking and going over areas that have burned and extinguishing hot spots,” Hernandez said.
The cause of the blaze wasn’t known, but a downed power line or homeless encampments in the area might be to blame, Hernandez said. He said the region is also a popular area for teenagers, who might have started the fire to stay warm.
At least 400 firefighters from as far as 260 miles away flocked to Reno early Friday as multiple fires roared from the Sierra Nevada foothills in northwestern Nevada and spread to the valley floor.