Two wildfires burning in Mineral County were contained by fire crews this week.
The larger blaze, the Spring Peak fire, burned more than 14,000 acres (about 22 square miles) in a week and was contained on Aug. 27.
The smaller blaze, the Chestnut fire, burned more than 4,000 acres (about 6 square miles) in a week near Gabbs.
By Monday fire lines had almost completely surrounded the Chestnut fire, said Steve Williams, a park ranger in the Austin district of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
“There’s an area of the fire that we really aren’t able to put people into because it’s so steep and rugged, so we’re just watching that for the next two or three days to make sure that nothing is going on in that area,” Williams said.
Williams said he expects the fire to be fully contained by the end of the week.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting the Spring Peak fire, said Lisa Keibler, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.
One bruised his knee when the rock he trying to step on gave way and he fell. Another scratched the cornea of one of his eyes after the wind blew dirt or ash into it.
The second firefighter was treated at an area hospital said Keibler, although she didn’t know which hospital.
Both fires were touched off by lightning strikes.
On Monday spokespeople at both fires expected the fires to move into the mop-up stages by the end of the week.
Keibler stopped updating the media on the Spring Peak fire on Monday evening and regular updates on the Chestnut fire ended on Aug. 23.
Fire crews typically post updates until the danger of a fire jumping its lines has passed.
The cost to contain the Spring Peak fire was just under $2.5 million on Sunday, Keibler said. But the cost of controlling the blaze may not end with the pay for firefighters.
The Spring Peak fire burned near a breeding ground for the bi state greater sage grouse, a popular target for hunters. Much of the area near where the fire burned is listed as essential sage grouse habitat by the Nevada Department of wildlife.
But, Keibler said, great swaths of sage grouse breading ground was saved by firefighters.
Maps of fires can sometimes be deceptive, she said. While on a map it appears fires completely devastate great swathes of land they typically leave small areas untouched. Firefighters call these areas green islands.
“With this one, with the bi state grouse habitat, we tried to leave as many of those green islands alone, we tried protecting them, drawing containment lines around them, so that the grouse will have habitat to come back to,” Keibler said.
Firefighters typically try to use controlled burns to clear these areas, but they were spared in the Spring Peak fire.
“There’s some damage done just because of the size of the fire, but it’s not as bad as it could have been without those green islands out there,” Keibler said.
Animal habitat was also a concern in the Chestnut fire, Williams said.
Some of the area burned by the Chestnut fire was a winter range for mule deer, also a popular critter for hunters to prey upon.
While populations are likely to decline this year, because animals can’t find enough food, vegetation often grows back thicker after a fire like the Spring Peak fire. More vegetation will mean more game animals, Keibler said.
But even once a fire is fully contained, it’s not considered extinguished, Keibler said. Fires are still considered active until a significant storm moves through the area and soaks the vegetation.
In the meantime crews will patrol fire lines to make sure there aren’t any flare-ups.
“[Fully contained] really means that its surrounded, more or less, by fire lines and there could still be activity in the fire,” Williams said.
Containment efforts on both fires went about as quickly as expected, both spokespeople said.
Keibler said work to contain the Spring Peak fire was slightly slowed by the smoke from the Rim Fire, a massive fire that has burned more than 230 square miles in California.
The smoke grounded the aircraft that would have supported fire crews during the final few days of operations, and limited crews’ visibility.
“At that point it was kind of a minor setback,” Keibler said. “If it would have happened earlier in the week…it could have been a major problem. But since it happened when it did, it was a minor setback.”