Wildfires raged in Nevada on Thursday, prompting a voluntary evacuation of people and livestock in many areas. Homes were destroyed and important technology centers threatened, including the multi-billion dollar Apple Technology Center and Tesla’s famous Gigafactory, both near Sparks.
The fires had begun on the Fourth of July, two days earlier. Some pointed to illegal firework displays as a potential cause; people who shoot pyrotechnics without proper training may not know how to do so safely. “To hear the number of reports we were getting of illegal fireworks, it was just amazing,” a sheriff in Washoe County told local news outlet KTVN.
The National Weather Service had previously issued a fire warning for the western part of the state because of dry air and strong winds.
Apple’s data center appeared to be safe as of Wednesday; a fire chief told the Associated Press that it had been saved by a landscape fire buffer. Buffers like this are created out of materials that are non- or barely-combustible. The fire “did come close to the complex,” though, KTVN reported.
That same day, the fire also headed in the direction of Tesla’s Gigafactory. It “was spreading south and east, away from populated areas, not far from a Tesla factory where the electric-car company manufactures lithium-ion batteries,” the AP reported.
The fire forced the closure of Interstate 80 on Thursday, but KTVN reported that the road simultaneously helped to prevent the fire from actually harming the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center where the Gigafactory is located.
“Flames were about 2.5-3 foot tall,” Mike Miller, a Gigafactory worker, told KTVN when describing his time on the highway. “They were forcing us all over into the inside lane and it slowed everything down, driving about 5-10 miles an hour.”
The Gigafactory’s Twitter page has not mentioned the event.
As of Thursday night, the risk to both tech structures seemed to have been averted, though wildfires continued to rage throughout the state.