CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – An army of firefighters struggled Thursday to contain an explosive wildfire that destroyed several luxury homes and threatened 550 other houses and businesses on the edge of Nevada’s capital.

Five people have been hurt in the wind-whipped blaze, which quickly charred 8,500 acres of dry brush, grass and timber. At one point, flames came within a half-mile of the governor’s official residence in Carson City, a town of about 50,000 people.

“It’s absolute devastation up there,” Sheriff Ken Furlong said.

Authorities said the fire was started by a person early Wednesday in a canyon near upscale homes and a waterfall on a creek popular with children.

Seven of the canyon homes were destroyed, and Assistant Fire Chief Stacey Giomi estimated their value at “several millions of dollars.” Judy Staub, who lost her home of 22 years on Wednesday, called the destruction “just unreal” and said “everything was gone but an old antique wagon.”

“People say, ‘Judy, you have your children and your husband and your dog,’ and I say, ‘I know that.’ But so many memories are gone,” she said. “I never dreamed I’d experience something like this.”

The fire moved up the slope away from homes, but Giomi said later winds could drive the fire back toward the city.

Authorities estimated that the fire would grow to 10,000 acres. About 800 firefighters, aided by air tankers and helicopters, were fighting the blaze.

“I’ve never seen a fire as bad as this fire,” said Giomi, a 24-year veteran.

One firefighter broke a leg, another suffered back and neck injuries and two others were burned, said Christie Kalkowski, spokeswoman for the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center. Reporter John Tyson of KOLO-TV in Reno suffered minor burns, and his vehicle was destroyed along with an ambulance.

U.S. 395, Carson City’s main street, was temporarily closed Wednesday, and firefighters had to pull away from some homes because of the intensity of the fire, which was fanned by wind gusts of up to 30 mph, fire spokesman Scott Huntley said.

In California, meanwhile, a fast-moving fire threatened two rural communities in the Angeles National Forest, as firefighters elsewhere made big gains against blazes that have charred about 23,000 acres of brushland and forest this week.

The fire in Pine Canyon, about 50 miles north of Los Angeles, grew to nearly 9,000 acres and burned at least one motor home and another structure, said U.S. Forest Service information officer Ed Gililland.

Containment was put at 47 percent. “It was a tough night,” Gililland said.

Almost 600 homes in Lake Hughes and Elizabeth Lake have been evacuated, and more evacuations were likely, he said.

On the Net:

Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center:

AP-ES-07-15-04 1735EDT

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