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Wildfire chars 8,500 acres in Nevada

550 houses, businesses at risk; five people hurt

CARSON CITY, Nev. -- About 800 firefighters struggled yesterday to contain a raging wildfire that destroyed several luxury homes and threatened 550 other houses and businesses on the edge of Nevada's capital.

Five people have been hurt in the wind-whipped blaze, which has charred 8,500 acres of dry brush, grass, and timber. At one point, flames came within a half-mile of the governor's official residence in Carson City, which has a population of 50,000 people.

"It's absolute devastation up there," Sheriff Ken Furlong said.

Authorities said a person started the fire early Wednesday in a canyon near upscale homes and a creek popular with children.

Seven of the canyon homes were destroyed. Assistant Fire Chief Stacey Giomi estimated their value at "several millions of dollars."

Judy Staub, who lost her home of 22 years on Wednesday, called the destruction "just unreal" and said "everything was gone but an old antique wagon."

"People say, 'Judy, you have your children and your husband and your dog,' and I say, 'I know that,' " she said. "But so many memories are gone. I never dreamed I'd experience something like this."

The fire moved up the slope away from homes, but Giomi said winds could drive the fire back toward the city.

Authorities estimated that the fire would grow to 10,000 acres. About 800 firefighters, aided by air tankers and helicopters, were fighting the blaze.

"I've never seen a fire as bad as this fire," said Giomi, a 24-year veteran.

A firefighter broke a leg, another suffered back and neck injuries, and two others were burned, said Christie Kalkowski, spokeswoman for the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center. Reporter John Tyson of KOLO-TV in Reno suffered minor burns, and his vehicle and an ambulance were destroyed.

US Route 395, Carson City's main street, was temporarily closed Wednesday, and firefighters had to pull away from some homes because of the intensity of the fire, which was fanned by wind gusts as fast as 30 miles per hour, fire agency spokesman Scott Huntley said.

In California, a fast-moving fire threatened two rural communities in the Angeles National Forest, as firefighters elsewhere made big gains against blazes that have charred about 23,000 acres of brushland and forest this week.

The fire in Pine Canyon, about 50 miles north of Los Angeles, grew to nearly 9,000 acres and burned at least one motor home and another structure, said Ed Gililland, an information officer with the US Forest Service.

An estimated 47 percent of the fire was contained. "It was a tough night," Gililland said.

Almost 600 homes in Lake Hughes and Elizabeth Lake have been evacuated, and more evacuations were expected, he said.

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