VIRGINIA FOOTHILLS - Two dogs were burned to death in their outdoor pen on Pinion Road during Wednesday's Andrew fire, while a collection of classic cars just yards away was saved.
"I just wish I could have saved those dogs," Morning Star Hotshots Superintendent Stan Heinrichs said, standing by the dogs' bodies.
The fire crept up the from the base of Steamboat Valley and engulfed the home at about 2 p.m. Wednesday, while the owner, Reno attorney Jerry Wright, watched helplessly from below.
Washoe County sheriff's deputies had blocked entry at the base of the hill.
Meanwhile, Heinrichs and a hand crew climbed nearly a mile to the top of the ridge to see if they could salvage any more structures.
Thinking it was another house, Heinrichs fought off flames from the garage containing Wright's collection of classic cars for an hour by himself.
"The flames were all the way up to the structure," Heinrichs said. "I almost panicked. It was just me and my hand tool. The rest of the crew was still on the side of the hill putting in the fire line."
After the flames were out, Heinrichs opened the garage's side door to find eight classic cars, ranging from a 1970 convertible Jaguar to a pre-1940s Studebaker.
"I couldn't believe it," Heinrichs said. "I didn't know there would be these cars here. I thought it was a house. I mean, I could live in a house the size of that garage."
He made his way through the rows of cars, looking in windows to make sure there were no hot embers.
On the passenger's seat of a 1941 Cadillac, he found a copy of Iowa's Waterloo Daily Courier newspaper dated Dec. 8, 1941. The headline read, "U.S. Declares War on Japan."
"That's pretty amazing," Heinrichs said, holding up the paper.
Sheriff's deputies allowed Wright up to his house a couple of hours after Heinrichs battled the blaze.
"He was pretty upset when he saw his dogs," Heinrichs said. "That's the one time I saw him shed a tear."
The dogs were trapped inside their fenced-in pen and could not escape.
After Wright recovered from the loss of his dogs, Heinrichs said, he inspected his cars and charged one of his batteries.
Wright's law partner said Thursday that Wright had gone to the charred remains of his house one more time before gathering belongings from his office and leaving for the day.
Contact Robyn Moormeister at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.