Evacuees find shelter in Topaz

It will be Tuesday before firefighters expect to have a line completely around the 1,080-acre Larson fire which threatened the town of Coleville on June 5.

On Thursday, officials reported the town was somewhat back to normal with both of the town's schools open and residents back in their homes.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered Tuesday from Larson to Cunningham lanes along Highway 395 when the lightning-caused, Larson fire, which started June 1, rekindled in 60 mph-plus winds.

A Red Cross disaster action team was in place at the Topaz Lodge Convention Center on Tuesday to assist more than 75 residents evacuated from the Mountain Warfare Training Center base housing located several miles north of Coleville.

Nicole Guite was one of the base housing residents who gathered her family at the convention center. Ten-year-old Joseph Guite and his sister Kayla, 7, were at the Antelope Elementary School when the fire threatened both the elementary and high school as well as 250 other structures.

"It was real scary," Joseph said. When asked what he did at the shelter he said, "I mostly slept."

For volunteers, it had been a long night. Volunteer Kelley Hopkins from Dayton, coordinated efforts to provide food and sleeping areas for the evacuees.

"I can't decide if I just want a nap or if I want a shower first. I am going to assume that I will need to return again tonight until further notice. I guess I need the nap," Hopkins said about her long night at the lodge convention center.

There were a lot of pets in need of shelter as well and the Red Cross provided food and found shelter for them until they could return home with their owners.

On the southern side of the Coleville fire, residents took refuge at the Walker Community Center. The Antelope Valley Lions Club was on hand to serve more than 50 evacuees a big spaghetti dinner and give those in need shelter for the night.

Walker resident Mono County Social Services Director Ed Zylman said the biggest problem was taking care of the animals that needed shelter during the evacuation. Most of the residents came for the dinner because their power was out. Those in need of housing, for the most part, stayed with friends and relatives.

"There were so many big animals, horses and dogs, it was hard to find places for them. Nancy Bordman and her crew from Mono County Animal Control did a wonderful job," Zylman said.

As he pointed to the empty cages brought in for fire evacuated pets he said, "We had a lot of small animals come in here including one cat that was injured and was taken care of."

The fire damaged the fiber-optic Verizon phone cables to the Walker area around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday with the power interrupted about 20 minutes later from a burned Sierra Pacific power pole in the Coleville area.

"Sierra Pacific was able to restore power to the Walker community about 3 a.m. Wednesday morning but phone service was out until Thursday," Walker resident Lynne Katusich said.

Early Wednesday morning the fire died down in the unseasonable chilly temperatures.

There wasn't a sign of smoke in the early morning dawn from the northern end of the Antelope Valley near Topaz Ranch Estates.

By 8:30 a.m. early winds raised a column of smoke and whipped the settled fire up a small, rugged canyon above Centennial Bluff and Meadowcliff on Highway 395.

Away from homes, it was now directed toward Slinkard Creek and near the area burned in the July 2002 Slinkard/Gate Complex fire, which was also lightning-caused.

Highway 395 was closed from Holbrook Junction to Bridgeport on Tuesday and Wednesday.


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