John Gurzinski  /  AP
A tanker plane drops fire retardant over a fire near Moapa National Wildlife Refuge, northeast of Las Vegas, on Thursday.
updated 7/2/2010 8:06:02 PM ET 2010-07-03T00:06:02

A spark from a wood chipper started a wildfire that destroyed 15 buildings in a ranch community northeast of Las Vegas, and an illegal campfire was blamed for another blaze that forced the evacuation of mountain hamlets northwest of the city, officials said Friday.

No serious injuries were reported in either blaze.

More than 150 firefighters, aided by aerial tankers and a helicopter, were working to encircle the 100-acre fire in the desert town of Moapa, said Hillerie Patton, a fire spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Land Management.

After being sparked by the wood chipper Thursday, the blaze swept through grasses and palm trees near state Route 168 about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Patton said.

Ten homes and five other buildings were destroyed. A TV news helicopter Friday showed a palm grove reduced to tall charred spikes. A ranch home, reddened by fire retardant, sat unharmed on a blackened patch of land.

On Mount Charleston, about 40 miles northwest of downtown Las Vegas, fire managers reported 50 percent containment of the 20-acre Cathedral fire in the steep terrain of Kyle Canyon, said Kirsten Cannon, another BLM spokeswoman.

Evacuation orders were lifted Friday afternoon and roads into and out of the area reopened, Las Vegas police spokesman Bill Cassell said. Five trailheads and a picnic area remained closed along with their trails.

Two helicopters and more than 250 firefighters from Nevada, California, Utah and Arizona were battling the fire, which burned a swath of pinion and shrubs about 1,000 feet from homes in the woodsy Rainbow enclave.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved a state request to recoup firefighting costs for the Cathedral fire after determining the blaze could have become a major disaster.

The fire started about noon Thursday at an elevation of about 7,200 feet. Mount Charleston peaks at 11,916 feet above sea level in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.

Cannon said the blaze was started about noon Thursday by an illegal campfire outside the Cathedral Rock Picnic Area. Authorities were trying to identify the people responsible.

Police advised residents in some 400 homes in the Rainbow, Old Town, Echo and Cathedral Rock developments to leave, and Cannon said about 70 percent of residents did so Thursday. Hiking trails and picnic areas were closed.

State Route 157, the only highway into Kyle Canyon, remained closed Friday.

Mount Charleston is a popular weekend getaway, where summer temperatures can be 15 to 20 degrees cooler than in Las Vegas.

The National Weather Service reported temperatures Friday in the 80s and winds gusting to 23 mph in Kyle Canyon. Humidity was just 4 percent.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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