DENVER — Reporters covering northern Colorado's massive wildfire were kept out of areas that have been evacuated for 11 days – an unusual restriction even for this state, where local officials have extensive powers at fire scenes and journalists are usually kept miles from the flames.

In Nevada, a newspaper photographer covering a brush fire this week was roughed up, handcuffed and cited for obstruction, his editor said. The newspaper is preparing a formal complaint.

Tension between news organizations and authorities is commonplace during emergencies, including wildfires in the drought-stricken West. But in many cases, journalists seeking to tell firefighters' and victims' stories face strict controls on the flow of information.

Law enforcement holds the upper hand, said Kelly McBride, who studies journalism ethics.

"Most of the time public officials are eager to show they are upholding their duty, so they grant journalists some kind of access," said McBride, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a journalism education foundation. "But there's nothing that says they have to grant journalists access."

Tim Dunn, photo editor of the Reno Gazette-Journal, was covering a grass fire that destroyed two homes in Sun Valley when Washoe County deputies detained him in handcuffs Monday, said Beryl Love, the newspaper's executive editor.

Love told The Associated Press Dunn was complying with a deputy's directions to move when he was forced to the ground and his face pushed into some gravel.

Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, said he was outraged by the incident.

"There are occasionally disagreements over where people should be and how much access there is, but I've never heard of a deputy actually beating up a photographer," he said.

The sheriff's department confirmed Dunn was detained and cited but declined to comment further.

In Colorado, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith cited safety reasons and residents' privacy in keeping reporters, TV camera crews and still photographers out of the High Park Fire evacuation zone until residents see their homes first.

"Our philosophy is the citizens need to see the damage and destruction before the general public," said Nick Christensen, executive officer for the sheriff's department.

The sheriff's department announced it would allow journalists into part of the evacuated area Wednesday afternoon.

Sheriff's spokesman John Schulz said residents had been allowed to return to the area a few days ago. He said media pressure wasn't a factor in the decision.

"That's typically not how the sheriff makes decisions," Schulz said. "He puts the citizens first and then the local media."

Smith also has barred reporters from briefings he gives to the evacuated residents. At some of these meetings, residents are told the bad news that their houses have burned down.

Journalists say the Colorado restrictions are too strict and hurt their ability to report.

"I'm sympathetic to their desire to help the victim," said Joey Bunch, a reporter for The Denver Post. "I'm not sympathetic to their desire to control what's going on."

Bunch, a 27-year-veteran who has covered numerous natural disasters, said the Larimer sheriff's restrictions are "the most concerted effort I've seen to get between the press and the victims."

At some previous wildfires in Colorado and in other states, authorities have escorted news media into evacuation zones before residents or the general public was allowed in, sometimes while the fire is still active.

With the current fire, "They're robbing the victims of the chance to tell their story," Bunch said. "The larger public isn't being able to fully appreciate the size of the fire and the size of the tragedy because the story isn't being told."

Fire management teams routinely try to get journalists safe access to fires to get the news out, said Mike Ferris, a public information officer for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

"Generally, I'll do everything I can to get you access to get your story," he said.

Rules for media access vary from state to state and even from wildfire to wildfire. In California, state law allows news organizations virtually unfettered access to fires. Other states leave the decisions up to the agency responsible for the land involved.

In Arizona, the incident commander in charge of the firefighting effort has the final say. News personnel must have an escort. Utah and Idaho have no laws restricting or guaranteeing access but officials usually work with news organizations.

In Colorado, state law puts the county sheriff in charge of fires on state and private land in unincorporated areas if the fire exceeds the capacity of a single fire department, officials said.

If a Colorado sheriff asks the National Interagency Fire Center to dispatch an incident management team to a fire, the sheriff decides what responsibilities to delegate to the team. In Larimer County's case, Sheriff Smith retained responsibility over media access.

The fire has destroyed at least 189 homes – the worst wildfire property destruction in Colorado history – and blackened 100 square miles since it was sparked by lightning June 9.

In one incident, the sheriff's department withheld for 24 hours a video recording, made by a fire official inside the evacuation zone using an NBC News camera and tape. NBC News producer Jack Chesnutt said he thought he would get the tape back immediately to share with other news outlets.

Christensen, the sheriff's executive officer, said the department always intended to show the video to evacuated residents before returning it.

"These are not the conditions that I thought we had agreed to when we handed them the camera," Chesnutt said. He called the High Park Fire coverage restrictions "unprecedented."

Evacuated residents expressed mixed feelings about the media, saying they want their privacy respected but also want news coverage of the fire and its aftermath.

"I have gotten more information, and I'm sure some of it is misinformation, through the media than I have through the sheriff and through the authorities," said Jeff Corum, whose home was destroyed.

But, he added, "there's really not any of us that want to sit around and talk" about losses. "We're private people, so it's nobody's (expletive) business, pardon my language."

Tom Knab, who was evacuated but has been told his house is still standing, expressed wariness about the restrictions. But he said he would be angry if his house and been destroyed and a news crew got to see it before he did.

"This is a local community. This isn't the White House burning," Knab said.

___

Associated Press Writers Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho, Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Ariz., Brian Skoloff in Salt Lake City and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nev., contributed to this report.

LOOK: Dramatic photos, video of the High Park Fire
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  • A birdfeeder hangs in front of a home d

    A birdfeeder hangs in front of a home destroyed by the High Park Fire, in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins June 30, 2012. The High Park Fire burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes making it the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. The High Park Fire is 97 percent contained while the Waldo Canyon Fire, which has burned more than 17,000 acres, left at least two people dead and destroyed 346 homes is 45 percent contained. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Maggie Baker looks over item retrieved f

    Maggie Baker looks over item retrieved from her brother-in-law's home which was burnt to the ground in the High Park Fire, June 30, 2012 in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins. The inferno burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes. The High Park Fire, which started June 9 from a lightning spark, is the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Maggie Baker (R) and her sister-in-law N

    Maggie Baker (R) and her sister-in-law Nellie Bowman walk through the remains of her brother-in-law's home which was burnt to the ground in the High Park Fire, June 30, 2012 in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins. The inferno burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes. The High Park Fire, which started June 9 from a lightning spark, is the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Maggie Baker (R) and her sister-in-law N

    Maggie Baker (R) and her sister-in-law Nellie Bowman walk through the remains of her brother-in-law's home which was burnt to the ground in the High Park Fire, June 30, 2012 in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins. The inferno burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes. The High Park Fire, which started June 9 from a lightning spark, is the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Maggie Baker looks at items retrieved fr

    Maggie Baker looks at items retrieved from the remains of her brother-in-law's home which was burnt to the ground in the High Park Fire, June 30, 2012 in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins. The inferno burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes. The High Park Fire, which started June 9 from a lightning spark, is the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Maggie Baker visits the remains of her b

    Maggie Baker visits the remains of her brother-in-law's home which was burnt to the ground in the High Park Fire, June 30, 2012 in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins. The inferno burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes. The High Park Fire, which started June 9 from a lightning spark, is the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Frank Baker visits the remains of his br

    Frank Baker visits the remains of his brother's home which was burnt to the ground in the High Park Fire, June 30, 2012 in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins. The inferno burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes. The High Park Fire, which started June 9 from a lightning spark, is the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A charred animal trailer sits amidst the

    A charred animal trailer sits amidst the destruction caused by the High Park Fire, in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins June 30, 2012. The High Park Fire burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes making it the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. The High Park Fire is 97 percent contained while the Waldo Canyon Fire, which has burned more than 17,000 acres, left at least two people dead and destroyed 346 homes is 45 percent contained. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A fireplace is all that remains of a hom

    A fireplace is all that remains of a home burnt to the ground in the High Park Fire, in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins June 30, 2012. The High Park Fire burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes making it the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. The High Park Fire is 97 percent contained while the Waldo Canyon Fire, which has burned more than 17,000 acres, left at least two people dead and destroyed 346 homes is 45 percent contained. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A scorched pathway leading to a home des

    A scorched pathway leading to a home destroyed by the High Park Fire, is seen June 30, 2012 in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins. The High Park Fire burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes making it the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. The High Park Fire is 97 percent contained while the Waldo Canyon Fire, which has burned more than 17,000 acres, left at least two people dead and destroyed 346 homes is 45 percent contained. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • An item recovered from a home destroyed

    An item recovered from a home destroyed in the High Park Fire, June 30, 2012 in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins. The inferno burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes making it the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. The High Park Fire is 97 percent contained while the Waldo Canyon Fire, which has burned more than 17,000 acres, left at least two people dead and destroyed 346 homes is 45 percent contained. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • A home surrounded by burnt land stands u

    A home surrounded by burnt land stands undamaged after the High Park Fire, in Bellvue, Colorado west of Fort Collins June 30, 2012. The High Park Fire burned more than 87,000 acres and left one person dead and destroyed 259 homes making it the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado state history. The High Park Fire is 97 percent contained while the Waldo Canyon Fire, which has burned more than 17,000 acres, left at least two people dead and destroyed 346 homes is 45 percent contained. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Dragons Eye

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/kcr56rck"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/kcr56rck">kcr56rck</a>:<br />Eye Of The Dragon (High Park Fire from Fort Collins Colorado)

  • High Park Wildfire

    Fire burns behind homes north of Poudre Canyon in the Glacier View area near Livermore, Colo., on Friday, June 22, 2012. The fire is burning on more than 68,000 acres west of Fort Collins and has destroyed at least 189 homes (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

  • High Park Wildfire

    Fire burns behind homes north of Poudre Canyon in the Glacier View area near Livermore, Colo., on Friday, June 22, 2012. The fire is burning on more than 68,000 acres west of Fort Collins and has destroyed at least 189 homes (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    A slurry bomber drops retardant on the High Park wildfire after it crossed to the north side of Poudre Canyon and threatened homes in the Glacier View area near Livermore , Colo., on Friday, June 22, 2012. The fire is burning on more than 68,000 acres west of Fort Collins and has destroyed at least 189 homes (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    The sun sets behind a plume of smoke from the High Park wildfire near Livermore , Colo., on Friday, June 22, 2012. The fire is burning on more than 68,000 acres west of Fort Collins and has destroyed at least 189 homes (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Image via <a href="http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151219758154638&set=p.10151219758154638&type=1&theater" target="_hplink">Facebook</a>.

  • Image via <a href="http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=3273738644328&set=p.3273738644328&type=1&theater" target="_hplink">Facebook</a>.

  • High Park Wildfire

    A firefighting helicopter races to dump a load of water on the fire north of Poudre Canyon in the Glacier View area near Livermore, Colo., on Friday, June 22, 2012. The fire is burning on more than 68,000 acres west of Fort Collins and has destroyed at least 189 homes (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    Shirley Paskett, left, and her partner Pam Creech react as they listen to a reverse 911 call telling them to evacuate their home after the High Park wildfire crossed to the north side of Poudre Canyon in the Glacier View area near Livermore, Colo., on Friday, June 22, 2012. The fire is burning on more than 68,000 acres west of Fort Collins and has destroyed at least 189 homes (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    Shirley Paskett loads her stuffed bob cat into her vehicle after she and her partner were evacuated from their home after the High Park wildfire crossed to the north side of Poudre Canyon the Glacier View area near Livermore, Colo., on Friday, June 22, 2012. The fire is burning on more than 68,000 acres west of Fort Collins and has destroyed at least 189 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    A firefighting aircraft is dwarfed by a plume of smoke north of Poudre Canyon in the Glacier View area near Livermore, Colo., on Friday, June 22, 2012. The fire is burning on more than 68,000 acres west of Fort Collins and has destroyed at least 189 homes (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    Fire burns behind homes north of Poudre Canyon in the Glacier View area near Livermore, Colo., on Friday, June 22, 2012. The fire is burning on more than 68,000 acres west of Fort Collins and has destroyed at least 189 homes (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • In this June 19, 2012 photo provided by the Colorado National Guard, an aircraft drops a load of fire retardant slurry above the High Park wildfire about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Colo. The ammonium phosphate dropped from airplanes to slow the spread of raging wildfires can turn a pristine mountain stream into a death zone for trout and some say the retardant has never been proven effective. (AP Photo/Colorado National Guard, John Rohrer)

  • In a photo made on Tuesday, June 19, 2012, and made available on Wednesday by the Colorado National Guard, firefighters from the Monument, Colo., fire department march to dinner at sunset in a base camp near the High Park wildfire about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Colo.(AP Photo/Colorado National Guard, John Rohrer)

  • In this June 19, 2012 photo provided by the Colorado National Guard, an aircraft drops a load of fire retardant slurry above the High Park wildfire about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Colo. The ammonium phosphate dropped from airplanes to slow the spread of raging wildfires can turn a pristine mountain stream into a death zone for trout and some say the retardant has never been proven effective. (AP Photo/Colorado National Guard, John Rohrer)

  • Burned trees stand on the south side of Poudre Canyon where the High Park wildfire devastated the west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. The largest Colorado blaze west of Fort Collins was 55 percent contained and has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    The stairs that led to a home that was destroyed by the High Park Wild fire are photographed during a tour by fire officials in Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. The largest Colorado blaze west of Fort Collins was 55 percent contained and has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • The stairs that led to a home that was destroyed by the High Park Wild fire are photographed during a tour by fire officials in Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. The largest Colorado blaze west of Fort Collins was 55 percent contained and has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    A burnt cactus stands near a home that was destroyed by the High Park Wildfire are pictured during a tour by fire officials in Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. Areas with other homes destroyed were not included in the tour. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • Burned trees stand on the south side of Poudre Canyon where the High Park wildfire devastated the west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. The largest Colorado blaze west of Fort Collins was 55 percent contained and has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • In this photo made on Monday, June 18, 2012, and made available Wednesday by the Colorado National Guard, a helicopter drops a load of water above the High Park wildfire, about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Colo.. The fire already has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. (AP Photo/Colorado National Guard, Jess Geffre)

  • In this photo made on Monday, June 18, 2012, and made available Wednesday by the Colorado National Guard, a helicopter drops a load of water above the High Park wildfire, about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Colo. The fire already has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. (AP Photo/Colorado National Guard , Jess Geffre)

  • In this photo taken on Monday, June 18, 2012, and made available Wednesday by the Colorado National Guard, a helicopter drops a load of water above the High Park wildfire, about 15 miles west of Fort Collins, Colo. The fire already has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. (AP Photo/Colorado National Guard , Jess Geffre)

  • High Park Wildfire, Slurry Bomber

    A slurry bomber files through smoke as it circles to make a drop on the High Park wildfire near Livermore, Colo., on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. The fire already has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. Incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said it could be weeks or even months before it's finally controlled. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

  • High Park Wildfire

    A spotter plane, top, catches up to a slurry bomber to lead it on a drop on the High Park wildfire near Livermore, Colo., on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. The fire already has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. Incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said it could be weeks or even months before it's finally controlled. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    Smoke rises beyond a pasture as the High Park wildfire continues to burn out of control near Livermore, Colo., on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. The fire already has destroyed at least 189 homes since it was sparked by lightning June 9. Incident commander Bill Hahnenberg said it could be weeks or even months before it's finally controlled. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    Fire burns in the forest on the High Park wildfire near Livermore, Colo., on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. The wildfire has burned over 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    A helicopter lifts off after taking on water to drop on the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Monday, June 18, 2012. The wildfire has now burned about 90 square miles and destroyed more than 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    Smoke billows from the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Monday, June 18, 2012. The wildfire has now burned about 90 square miles and destroyed more than 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    A helicopter lifts off after taking on water to drop on the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Monday, June 18, 2012. The wildfire has now burned about 90 square miles and destroyed more than 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    Smoke billows from the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Monday, June 18, 2012. The wildfire has now burned about 90 square miles and destroyed more than 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    Smoke billows from the High Park Fire west of Fort Collins, Colo., on Monday, June 18, 2012. The wildfire has now burned about 90 square miles and destroyed more than 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    The sun sets amidst smoke from the High Park Fire near Bellvue, Colo., on Monday, June 18, 2012. The wildfire has now burned about 90 square miles and destroyed more than 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    Fire crowns in the trees on the High Park wildfire near Livermore, Colo., on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. The wildfire has burned over 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

  • High Park Wildfire

    Fire burns in the forest on the High Park wildfire near Livermore, Colo., on Tuesday, June 19, 2012. The wildfire has burned over 180 homes. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)