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Reno Wildfire That Destroyed 32 Homes, Forced Thousands To Flee Now Fully Contained

11/21/11 11:04 AM ET   AP

RENO, Nev. -- The southwest Reno fire that forced thousands to flee and destroyed 32 homes is fully contained at nearly 2,000 acres, fire officials said late Sunday.

Close to 10,000 people were forced to evacuate early Friday by the unusual, out-of-season blaze that was spread by gale force winds and ripped through the Sierra foothills.

Sierra Fire Protection District Chief Mike Brown said the blaze is 100 percent contained at 1,935 acres, or about three square miles, after crews worked Sunday on lingering hot spots. They also repaired areas where vegetation was burned and hillsides damaged by bulldozers in an effort to prevent mudslides.

Although no official cause has been determined, authorities suspect arcing power lines.

"The fire was much like a locomotive," Reno Fire Chief Mike Hernandez said. "It roared down the mountains and then ran down along the foothills."

Hernandez noted that many families had to flee in the middle of the night with limited possessions, "and they are coming back to devastation, to nothing."

Officials were cautioning people whose homes were burned to be wary of scam artists posing as contractors offering inexpensive repairs. Washoe County Sheriff's spokesman Armando Avina said the scammers "prey on victims of tragedy" and usually ask for money upfront.

Austin Hardage and his family were among those who evacuated. He said they awoke at about 2 a.m. Friday to a smoky, orange glow through the windows.

With flames speeding down the hillside behind the Hardages' house, they decided to grab some clothes and the pets and flee.

"Three computers, two dogs and two rabbits. That's pretty much all we have now," Hardage said, his voice giving way to some tears.

"I'm sorry," he told a reporter. "It hadn't really hit me until I start talking about it."

The house itself, in an upscale gated community near Lakeridge Golf Course, is now "just glass and twisted metal," Hardage said.

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Filed by Jade Walker  |