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May 22, 2012
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Wildfire claims seven homes, 1,800 acres in Topaz Ranch Estates

A fast-moving wildland fire, whipped up by 50-mph winds, tore through 1,800 acres and destroyed seven structures Tuesday at Topaz Ranch Estates.

There were no injuries reported Tuesday, and a hiker was rescued from the area by a Douglas County sheriff's deputy after he became trapped by the fast-moving blaze.

Gov. Brian Sandoval toured the area after Douglas County commissioners met in a special meeting to declare the fire an emergency.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, the fire was nowhere near containment.

More than 250 personnel were on scene utilizing four air tankers, two helicopters, three bulldozers, four handcrews and several engines and water tenders. Most of the damage was centered around Slate, Sandstone and Pinenut Way. Firefighters responded from agencies of East Fork Fire & Paramedic Districts, Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Division of Forestry, US Forest Service, Lyon County, Alpine County and Mono County.

Douglas County Sheriff's Spokesman Sgt. Jim Halsey said the fire may have started when a controlled burn on Sunday afternoon rekindled.

The fire was being fought from air with water drops by helicopter and by ground by five strike teams.

Voluntary resident evacuations were requested in the area. The Topaz Ranch Estates Community Center on Carter Drive was the evacuation center.

Evacuation affected Pinenut Way east to Spatter Cone Road out toward Granite Way and Highway 208.

Douglas County sheriff's deputies and search and rescue members were on scene assisting with evacuations.

A red flag warning was in effect until 9 p.m. Tuesday in central Nevada for gusty winds and low humidity.

Highway 208 was closed to all but local residents, who were allowed in to remove their property and animals. Large animals were evacuated to the Douglas County Fairgrounds on Pine Nut Road in Gardnerville. Pets were evacuated to the Douglas County Animal Shelter, which is across Pine Nut Road from the Fairgrounds.

County Manager Steve Mokrohisky said East Fork Chief Tod Carlini called for an emergency meeting shortly after the fire was reported at 1:40 p.m.

"Within 25 minutes we had all five commissioners, the district attorney, the county clerk and myself meeting at the emergency operations center," Mokrohisky said.

Carlini was updating the board from the fire scene.

"The board approved a resolution to declare an emergency, and within minutes we submitted it to the governor," Mokrohisky said. "He's the only one authorized to declare an emergency."

He said the board requested voluntary evacuation of the affected area, but did not request mandatory which also must come from the governor.

Mokrohisky said declaring an emergency allows the county to go to the federal government to request grant funding.

"Within the first hour, we had exhausted our financial capacity to handle the fire," Mokrohisky said. "It costs a lot of money to bring in our regional partners."

Federal grants allow the county to reimburse the agencies.

Mokrohisky said the county has been working for three years to develop the emergency response plan.

"We've done extensive training with the board. The process worked really smoothly. Within 25 minutes of one phone call, we had all the decision makers in the room," he said.

"We learned from other fires last year like the Caughlin Fire (in Washoe County) how important a few minutes are in declaring an emergency," Mokrohisky said.

Today's weather is expected to be cooler, but continue breezy with a high temperature of 69 degrees. Winds are expected out of the west at between 5 and 15 mph.


Douglas County Animal Care & Services - 782-9061

Northern Nevada Red Cross - (775) 856-1000

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The Record Courier Updated May 23, 2012 12:30AM Published May 22, 2012 05:02PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.