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Las Vegas: Wildfire 70% contained, air quality improves to normal

July 15, 2013|By Jay Jones
  • With the Carpenter 1 fire 70% contained, only seven helicopters remained assigned to the blaze in the mountains northwest of Las Vegas.
With the Carpenter 1 fire 70% contained, only seven helicopters remained… (U.S. Forest Service )

Air quality in the Las Vegas Valley returned to normal and hiking trails in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area were once again welcoming visitors Monday as containment of the 2-week-old wildfire in the Spring Mountains grew to 70%.

“We’ve cornered the beast,” fire information officer Larry Helmerick said Monday afternoon of the Carpenter 1 fire. “Our [firefighter] numbers will probably decline significantly tonight.”

About 1,000 firefighters continued to douse hot spots Monday with the aid of seven helicopters. That’s nearly 400 fewer firefighters and five fewer helicopters than over the weekend.

The blaze raced through stands of pinyon and juniper in the Spring Mountains about 30 miles northwest of Las Vegas, and a towering column of smoke was visible for several days, at one stage prompting an air quality alert of unhealthful conditions.

On Monday, the Clark County Department of Air Quality dropped its air quality advisory. The agency predicted air quality in the “good” range through Friday.

Helmerick said homeowners and business owners will be allowed to return to Kyle Canyon, the area commonly known as Mt. Charleston, starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The public will not be allowed into the mountains until Friday or later, he said.

Once the two state highways leading into the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area fully reopen, Helmerick said visitors will experience a patchwork of blackened forests and areas untouched by flames.

“We call it a mosaic burn,” he said. “You got green. You got black.”

Along the drive to the popular Mt. Charleston Lodge at the end of State Highway 157 at an elevation of 7,700 feet motorists will pass the spot at which the fire jumped the highway last week.

Higher up, the vegetation is largely unscathed, except at the spots where crews set small fires as part of their successful efforts to save property.

Visitors are again able to hike from parking areas along the scenic loop of Red Rock Canyon into more remote areas, but with a caution.

“We remind folks that firefighters are still working in the La Madre area,” an email from the Bureau of Land Management advised. “Please respect these hard working men and women and refrain from interfering with their operation.”

The wildfire consumed nearly 28,000 acres, more than 43 square miles. Only a handful of structures was destroyed. Lightning is blamed for igniting the blaze on July 1.

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