An aircraft drops flame-retardant chemicals on LaMadre Mountain in a remote… (U.S. Forest Service )
With the wildfire in the mountains northwest of Las Vegas now 60% contained, most of the hiking trails in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area reopened Sunday afternoon.
That’s one of of several indicators that firefighters have the upper hand on the blaze that has scorched more than 43 square miles and fouled the air in and around Las Vegas.
“Work is being completed. People [firefighters] are going home,” said Madonna Lengerich, a fire information officer. The number of personnel fighting the blaze dropped to 1,025 on Sunday, a decrease of 361 from Friday’s peak.
Soaking rains Thursday and Friday helped extinguish burning forests at the same time crews were reinforcing nearly 60 miles of fire line designed to keep the blaze from spreading. The total amount of land burned -- just under 28,000 acres -- hasn’t grown since Friday
With far fewer trees on fire, the huge plume of smoke from the blaze, which had been clearly visible from the Las Vegas Strip, has disappeared. Lengerich said there wasn’t enough timber and brush left to burn for another cloud of smoke to form.
The air-quality forecast for Las Vegas remains in the “moderate” range through Monday, but it’s unclear whether that will change. The Clark County Department of Air Quality was closed over the weekend. Last week, the air quality had reached the "unhealthful" level.
Officials at Red Rock Canyon, west of Las Vegas, on Sunday reopened public access to all areas except Rocky Gap Road, but with a caution.
“We remind folks that firefighters are still working in the LaMadre area,” an email from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management advised. “Please respect these hard working men and women and refrain from interfering with their operation.”
The Spring Mountains National Recreation Area remained closed, as did the two state highways that connect U.S. 95 with the mountains.
Lengerich said evacuated residents of Kyle Canyon probably would be allowed to return to their homes Tuesday or Wednesday.
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