Crews fight Highway Fire with backfire |

Crews fight Highway Fire with backfire

Fire crews are planning new tactics to battle the Highway Fire, which has burned more than 500 acres in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest since Monday.

On Thursday afternoon, emergency personnel were preparing to ignite a “burn out” or backfire near the southeast quadrant of the blaze to reduce the wildfire’s available brush fuel, said Dick Birger, the Great Basin Type 2 interagency team’s public information officer.

Authorities could not say when they expect to contain the wildland blaze, with just 20 percent contained on Thursday.

The wind-driven wildfire started near Interstate 80 and the California-Nevada state line Monday around 1:30 p.m. about 500 feet from the westbound lanes of the freeway.

Fire crews from surrounding agencies were struggling to climb steep, rocky terrain to reach the blaze, burning north and northwest of the state line.

“It’s a bowling alley up there,” said Franklin Pemberton, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman. “That’s the term they use for a dangerous situation. Boulders keep rolling down the hill.”

About 300 fire personnel with 11 hand crews, seven engines, five helicopters, one air tanker, two bulldozers, and one water tender vehicle were deployed on Thursday.

As the southwest winds shift, “it’s looking very favorable” for firefighters, Birger said from the scene.

Federal investigators determined the blaze was caused by humans, but released no further details.

Whether arson might have been involved in causing the Highway Fire is “one of those things that’s still under investigation,” Birger said.

No evacuation notices have been issued and no injuries have been reported.

Interstate 80 remains open, with the westbound right lane closed periodically to allow fire personnel access.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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