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Cathleen Allison, Associated Press
Firefighters battle a fast-moving brush fire in Pleasant Valley, south of Reno, Nev., on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012. Winds gusting up to 82 mph pushed a fast-moving brush fire through a valley south of Reno on Thursday, burning several homes, threatening dozens more and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate their neighborhoods.

RENO, Nev. — Fire officials in Reno say a man has admitted to accidentally starting a huge fire that destroyed 29 homes and forced as many as 10,000 people to evacuate.

Fire Chief Michael Hernandez says the elderly man told authorities on Friday that he improperly discarded ashes from his fireplace in the Washoe Valley. He says the man is extremely remorseful and is cooperating with investigators.

Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley says the case will be forwarded to the district attorney's office for consideration of criminal charges.

Fire officials have increased the number of destroyed homes from 26 to 29 but scaled back the estimate of acres burned form 3,900 to about 3,200.