Firestorm hammersCarson City

(publishedby: Tahoe Daily Tribune Staff Reports, 16 July2004)

CARSON CITY – An explosive wildfire possibly started byteenagers who had a party in the woods burned out of control in stiffening windsinto Thursday night, destroying at least 20 homes and forcing evacuations ofhundreds of others.
More than 1,000 homes were considered threatened as of Thursday night, with morethan 7,100 acres burned, according to Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center,which has coordinated the firefighting efforts. CBS News reported the totalacres burned at more than 10,000.
An Associated Press reporter told the Tahoe Daily Tribune that Carson CitySheriff Ken Furlong is questioning as many as 20 teenagers regarding the firethat started in Kings Canyon within an area where youths are known to gather,set bonfires, drink alcohol and party.
As of press time Thursday, mandatory evacuation was called at the Silver Oakssubdivision, located west of the Silver Oaks Golf Course and to the east ofLakeview near Highway 395. Mandatory evacuations also remain in effect forTimberline, Lakeview and Franktown areas.
Containment is not expected for at least two days, fire officials said.
The fire was reported about 3 a.m. Wednesday near the waterfall in Kings Canyon.Since flaring up midday Wednesday, it has moved northwest of Carson City intodeep canyons dotted with multi-million dollar homes.
Sagebrush-covered slopes like C-Hill west of town burned over in a matter ofhours Wednesday evening, leaving flickering hot spots and flaming electricalpoles in the night sky.
By Thursday afternoon, erratic winds continued to fuel flames, sending plumes ofsmoke upward and back toward the fire’s origin, choking much of Carson City.Flames were said to be 100 feet high.
Authorities say at least 900 personnel are fighting the fire. They are beingaided by seven air tankers and 10 helicopters to battle the “type 1″classified fire. During the initial effort, one firefighter broke a leg, anothersuffered back and neck injuries and two others suffered burns, according to firespokeswoman Christie Kalkowski of the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center.One of the burned firefighters was with a crew trapped briefly when the rapidlymoving blaze leapfrogged their position and destroyed their fire engine. Therehave been no life-threatening injuries.
“I’ve never seen a fire as bad as this fire. I’ve never seen behavior asbad as this fire,” said Assistant Carson City Fire Chief Stacey Giomi, afirefighter for 24 years.
“It’s probably going to hit 10,000 acres,” state Forester PeteAnderson said about the fire.
Gov. Kenny Guinn said the fire hazard made it imperative for federal officialsto quickly complete examinations of heavy air tankers recently grounded innearby Minden. Once cleared to fly, he said those planes would be just minutesaway. The big tankers fighting the fire flew in from distant locations to try tosave homes and businesses.
“Your heart goes out to them,” Guinn said of the fire victims. But headded “it’s good news and it’s bad news” because firefighters, unableto save some homes, were able to keep the blaze from several hundred other homesand businesses.
“It’s absolute devastation up there,” Sheriff Furlong said Thursdayafter driving through a burned-over area where the Waterfall fire started.
In some areas firefighters had to pull away from homes because of the intensityof the fire, which was fanned by gusting winds, he said.
“It’s just unreal,” said Judy Staub, who lost her home of 22 years.”It was burned down and everything was gone but an old antique wagon.”
“People say ‘Judy, you have your children and your husband and your dog’and I say I know that. But so many memories are gone,” she added. “Inever dreamed I’d experience something like this.”
“You never think it’s going to be you,” said neighbor Robin Darney,who also lost her home. “It’s a grief I hope I will never feel again. Butmy children are safe.”
Darney said she, her husband and their five children had weathered severalsmaller fires over the years.
“I feared this almost every day I lived there, I never expected it,”she said.
“It’s always somebody else,” said Art Bayer, whose home was heavilydamaged. “When it happens to you it’s devastating.”
An evacuation center was set up at Carson High School. The campus of WesternNevada Community College was evacuated, though firefighters managed to protectit.
– Nevada Appeal reporters F.T. Norton and Karl Horeis, the Associated Press andTahoe Daily Tribune staff contributed to this report.


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