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Reno gets punched by autumn fire, crews achieve 50 percent containment

by Brett McGinness, Reno Gazette-Journal |

Rain, blocked roads, firefighters, officers and at times rainbows greeted Reno residents Wednesday as they tried to get back into their neighborhoods affected by the fast-moving Pinehaven Fire.

Five homes were lost and an additional 15 were damaged by the fire, according to initial assessments inside the fire's 1,200-acre perimeter.

The fire – which broke out midday Tuesday in West Reno – prompted evacuations, traffic jams, smoky air and power loss. 

The Pinehaven Fire was “remarkably similar” to the wind-fueled Caughlin Ranch Fire that destroyed 28 homes in the same area exactly nine years ago, according to Reno Fire Department Chief Dave Cochran.

Firefighters stopped forward progress on the fire Tuesday night. Crews are in the mop-up phase, and officials are currently investigating the fire's  cause. Investigators from the state fire marshal's office, the city of Reno and NV Energy are on site.

The fire also threatened around 500 businesses, power lines, telecommunications infrastructure and the Galena River Watershed. Power was cut to about 1,700 homes, but was restored Wednesday.

The Pinehaven Fire reached 50 percent containment by late afternoon Wednesday, and crews are hoping to have the fire fully contained no later than Friday.

The fire started at Pinehaven Road and Sierra Pine Drive in the Caughlin Ranch area at about 1 p.m. Tuesday during fierce winds. About 200 firefighting personnel from multiple agencies responded.

City officials began reopening roads in the area, though closures remained in place as of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Pinehaven, Mountainshyre, Buckhaven, Big Bend and Hemlock areas.