"Extremely unusual" winter blaze scorches Nevada

A huge brush fire in Nevada has burned nearly two dozen homes. Police say one body has been found, but it's unclear if that has any connection to the fire.

"To say that we're in the thick of battle is an understatement," Tim Leighton, the fire chief of Sierra, Nevada told reporters Thursday night.

The battle for firefighters is trying to stop the fast-moving flames, an inferno driven by 80 mile-per-hour winds, and fueled by bone dry land that hadn't seen rain in a record 56 days.

Leighton tells CBS News it's "extremely unusual" to be fighting a brush fire this late in the season.

"I've been here 24 years and have never seen a fire season extend this long."

People in the Nevada town are used to snowstorms in January, not firestorms. Local resident Barbara Harris was shocked by what she drove into as she fled her home; a wall of smoke so thick she couldn't make out the road in front of her, and ash falling like snow.

What began as a small brush fire quickly gobbled up homes, choked the air with thick black smoke, and shut down highway 395 after visibility dropped to zero.

Click on the player above to see Blackstone's full report from Nevada

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.