A community remembers loss

In a town rich in history with barely a historic milestone unturned, last summer's Waterfall fire was one for the record books.

"Never before have we had a fire that devastating with that large a loss," said Fire Chief Stacey Giomi.

Eighteen homes, one business, countless outbuildings, dozens of vehicles and more than 8,500 acres of land were scorched or disintegrated in the wildfire that raged for three days.

From July 14 to July 16, every bit of Carson City seemed filled with thick smoke. An orange haze hung over the city. At night, the scenic westside hills and canyons burned red with embers, causing more than one onlooker to liken it to lava.

More than 2,000 firefighters converged on the capital city. Schools became command posts and animal shelters. People opened their homes to strangers. Others dropped off water or food.

"It was amazing how well this community rallied around those people that did lose something," Giomi said.

The first two days were filled with loss. Nine homes in Kings Canyon and one home on Curry Street fell to the flames that first day. On day two, eight more in Timberline. Day three was a seeming success as destruction seemed imminent in Lakeview Estates, but fire crews managed to stop the fiery serpent.

"Every deputy, every reserve officer and every volunteer, plus officers from every law enforcement agency in the city and the surrounding counties reported in and lined up to do whatever they could," said Sheriff Kenny Furlong. "Washoe County deputies - without so much as a request - moved in and began taking calls for service in Carson City. If there was a domestic battery happening on the north end of town, there were Washoe County units available."

Furlong, who was born and raised in Carson City, said his most surreal moment came when he was sitting in a classroom at the middle school as fire officials outlined their plan of attack.

"And outside the windows all you could see were the mountains engulfed in flames. There was a helpless feeling, How were they going to stop this? It was already raging down on the town," he said.

A year later, rehabilitation efforts have added a green to the generally brown hills. Wildflowers, not usually in abundance in certain areas, have sprouted from the nutrient-rich soil. Unless you were here last summer, it's almost impossible to tell anything happened at all.

But for Mark Carter, whose Timberline home was lost on the second day, even if the community was strengthened by this shared experience, Carson City won't ever look the same.

"The growth here has been going on for a millennium. There's no way that in my lifetime that it will get back to the beauty that it once was," he said. "The trees were enormous. To me, that's the greatest loss."

n Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.


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