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Friday
Nov182011

Strong Winds Fuel Reno Fire

File photo. Hemera/Thinkstock(RENO, Nev.) -- High winds are fanning a Nevada wildfire that is threatening the city of Reno and has chased 10,000 people from their homes.

About 400 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is being fed by wind gusts up to 70 mph. Those gusts are sending embers off to ignite fresh fires. The heavy smoke and the winds have grounded rescue helicopters.

The winds are expected to remain strong Friday and Fire Chief Mike Hernandez said he expects the fires to persist through Saturday.

Fire crews from local departments as well as state and federal crews or working in tandem to contain the blaze.

The blaze, which erupted about 12:30 a.m. local time, has scorched over 2,000 acres, destroyed 30 homes and sent hundreds of families through the eerie glow and smoky haze to shelters. Several people have been injured, and at least one death has been reported, that of a man who suffered a heart attack as he fled the flames during the police-led evacuation.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have declared the fire a major disaster.

"The people are in a state of shock and are hanging in there," said Sandoval.

The weather has even made the safety of the emergency responders a concern.  "We have all this wild wind," said Rita Vollmer of the Sierra Front Inter-Agency Dispatch Center. "The safety of our emergency crews is very important. They're fighting the fire directly as they can, but the crews are making those decisions on the ground."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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