Al Verschell stood among poppies and cornflowers under a blue Nevada sky. With silver hair blowing in the afternoon wind, he looked over the concrete pad that once held his Timberline home.
Really, 3,000 square feet was too much space for him, the 78-year-old bachelor admitted. But this type of downsizing never entered his mind.
In the year since his home and more than a dozen others were devoured by the Waterfall fire, memories of all he lost have slowly crept back.
"Yesterday, I went to look for my field glasses and remembered they were gone," he said.
On July 14, 2004, a small fire on a ridge in Kings Canyon sent up a plume of smoke. Until it exploded into a firestorm, no one expected families would be left homeless and more than 8,500 acres of Carson City's scenic west side would be blackened.
It took three days for hundreds of firefighters to tame the flaming beast. By then it had consumed 18 homes. Hundreds of others were saved in Kings Canyon, Silver Oak, Wellington Crescent, Timberline and Lakeview Estates, some of Carson City's priciest neighborhoods.
From Verschell's roof to the basement and the structure in between, every possession was gone in a blizzard of orange flames.
Defensible space was in the forefront of his mind, and he believes the fire was fed by inches of fuel on the undeveloped, overgrown lot next door. He'd begged the owner to clear it, but to no avail.
Verschell loved his views of the city and a year ago he vowed to rebuild. He had an architect draw up plans and gained approval from the city. He was ready to do it - to continue his life in the spot he'd claimed 15 years ago.
But then he came to a realization, and stuck a "For Sale" sign in the dirt.
"I'm too old, baby," he said with a barely visible wink behind sunglasses. "It would be two years before it's all finished, and by then I'll be 80. I'm probably going to end up in Florida."
His 90-year-old sister is there. Talking about her reminds Verschell of another item lost. It hung on the wall of his Timberline bedroom - a picture of a 2-year-old Al, flanked by his two big sisters.
As a matter of fact, all he'd taken with him on that fateful July day was a pillow, his cat and a picture of his mother.
A year later, the purple and orange wildflowers sprouting around the "For Sale" sign and tickling Verschell's ankles was noteworthy to him.
"This is the first time they've done this," he gushed, perhaps admitting that among the ugliness comes some beauty.
"If it hadn't burned I'd have been here for a while. I'm gonna be leaving a lot behind when I go."
n Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.