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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nevada governor chides Forest Service over fire

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada's governor has criticized a U.S. Forest Service decision to let a wildfire burn unchecked for two weeks, allowing it to "get out of control."

A lightening-caused fire that ignited Aug. 21 in northeast Nevada has grown from about 13 square miles to 76 square miles, officials said. It also has moved to within 4 miles of the small town of Jarbidge.

The blaze was 30 percent contained Sunday. No homes were threatened, and no major injuries were reported.

"The forest fire that we have today was allowed to get out of control, knowing the dangers of the fuel loading and the weather conditions — dry, hot, windy," Gov. Jim Gibbons told the Elko Daily Free Press.

The Forest Service initially tried to fight the fire, which is burning in a remote area of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, but pulled out after deciding the area's rugged terrain put firefighters at risk.

"We weighed the firefighter safety issues against the values that we were trying to protect and decided to take a less aggressive strategy to managing the fire," Forest Supervisor Ed Monnig told The Associated Press. "Unfortunately, we had several strong wind events that have pushed the fire beyond anything we predicted."

Fire experts had predicted there would be less than a 2 percent chance of the fire escaping the wilderness, Monnig said.

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