One elderly woman was so distraught after seeing her home destroyed, she had to be helped back to the car.
Authorities say the worst is likely over.
Nearly 10,000 thousand residents living on the southern border of Reno woke up to a sudden wildfire that began consuming the Sierra Nevada foothills at about 12:30 a.m. Friday. They had little time to evacuate.
"I was woken up by a neighbor at 1:30 a.m. pounding on my door," said Terry Vander Ploeg, who was evacuated. "He was saying there's a fire coming down. I saw a glow, so I ran up, got my jeans on, got a jacket. By the time I got back down, the flames were right outside."
Police went door to door in the middle of the night, telling residents to leave, as as the fast-moving fire raged in rough terrain.
"When I came out, all the police are here, and they said, 'Oh, there's a mandatory evacuation. You have to leave,'" said Angie Lapan.
Multiple blazes kept firefighters on their toes. And the winds weren't helping, gusting up to 60 miles per hour, which officials said are comparable to the Santa Winds known to aggravate wildfires in Southern California.
"This wind is unbelievable ... that's what's blowing the whole thing out of proportion. The wind has just has been awful," Ploeg said.
Embers from the Reno fire were flying into canyons and ditches, sparking spot fires at a fast rate for hours.
The winds were expected to die down by Friday night, and the weather may finally turn in the firefighters' favor.
Ninety schools were shut down so that the roads were clear for emergency personnel.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval declared a state of emergency.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.