Reno, Nevada, Fire: 20 Homes Destroyed, 2,000 Remain Evacuated

PHOTO: Firefighters wait for water before attacking an outbuilding adjacent to a home, Jan. 19, 2012 in Pleasant Valley, Nev.
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Authorities in Reno, Nev., are battling a wind-whipped brush fire that forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people and destroyed at least 20 homes.

The fire started about noon Thursday in an area near U.S. Highway 395. The highway is expected to remain closed today.

The blaze has burned at least 3,700 acres. Officials confirmed one fatality but said it was unclear whether it was fire related.

Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez said firefighters had stopped the progression of the fire, but there were still acres of hot spots.

"This is not to say that the fire is 100 percent contained and extinguished. Only that the active burn or the areas at the leading edge of the fire have been halted," he said.

But Hernandez said they were able to save 800 homes that were directly in the burn areas. At least 2,000 people remain evacuated this morning.

"To say we are in the thick of battle is an understatement," Hernandez told reporters at a news conference overnight.

The fire also cut short a speech by Vice President Joe Biden Thursday.

Biden was giving a speech at Galena High School about college costs when the school was evacuated.

"They have just told me if I don't let you guys get out of here relatively soon they're going to make you get out of here," Biden said.

Fire officials said Thursday's fire was similar to a fire that ripped throughsouthwest Reno in November.

That fire also forced the evacuation of about 10,000 people.

"It's inconceivable that this community has been struck by tragedy again," Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval told The Associated Press.

ABC News Radio and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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