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Reno, NV Metropolitan Statistical Area – Location of the Reno-Tahoe-Fernley CSA, with the Reno-Sparks Metropolitan Statistical Area highlighted in red – CC

A wildfire driven by powerful winds destroyed or damaged about 12 homes and buildings in a Reno residential area, forcing the evacuation of hundreds more on the sidelines of the Sierra Nevada, authorities said.

Up to 500 homes could be at risk under the flames, which expanded to more than two square miles within hours after setting alight overnight over the neighborhood, Reno’s fire department chief David Cochran said.

Police Chief Jason Soto said he had stepped up patrols of evacuated neighborhoods to safeguard houses and businesses.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported a photographer saw at least five homes ablaze.

Anita Noble of Reno sprayed a garden hose down a slope near her daughter’s house and told KOLO-TV that she could have saved “could have been the one to save my daughter’s house and the neighbor’s house.”

Cochran said fire crews in Reno and California had helped contain the fire, which grew to more than two square miles in a matter of hours after it ignited overnight over a nearby neighborhood and succeeded in halting progress in the fire.

Winds swung ahead of a Sierra storm, which was more robust than one that brought gusts of more than 160 mph this past Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

Evacuation orders were issued for the tiny mountain town of Walker and other nearby towns as the wind-whipped blaze hammered the trees and dry scree.

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