Community embraced cleanup effort
Once the Autumn Hills fire was extinguished, the process of clean-up and recovery was embraced by members of the community in donations, volunteer work and compassion.
“I can’t say enough as far as the feeling of the community and how they did so much. It was overwhelming,” said Diane Gordon, co-chair of the Autumn Hills Fire Relief Committee.
“So many people were frustrated and wanted to help,” Gordon said. “There were a lot of people who asked ‘what can I do?'”
The relief committee was made up of six to eight people, Gordon said. The main goal of the committee was to raise money for the families affected by the fire since federal aid was only provided for the revegetation process.
“We wanted to help anybody who asked for help. There were six or seven families who itemized their losses, and we, as a committee, organized our priorities,” said Gordon.
“We wanted to help individual residents, so the money was given to the people.”
The committee organized a garage sale that was held at Carson Valley Middle School, and $12,000 was raised and distributed.
“I can’t tell you the feeling when you see people bringing things to the garage sale,” Gordon said. Most of the things were nice items and some were brand new, she said.
“The gym floor was covered. We didn’t have room inside the gym for everything.”
A story Gordon recalls was about a man who had a bicycle he wanted to donate. But the bicycle wasn’t in great shape so he took it to have it repaired. Once the man in the bike shop knew what he was doing it for, he waived the fee for the repairs.
When the man pulled up to the parking lot of CVMS, another man saw his truck, with the bike and other things. The man stepped up to the truck and said “I’ll buy everything in that truck,” without even looking through it.
“It was just amazing to me,” Gordon said.
After the sale, a group from Sparks took the remaining items and donated them to the homeless.
“I can’t tell you how wonderful the support has been,” Gordon said.
While those affected by the fire began to regroup and recover, the land was still in dire need.
The reseeding project was coordinated by the Nevada Resource and Conservation Service, Douglas County and the Nevada Division of Forestry.
Pam Jenkins, coordinator for the Autumn Hills revegetation process, said the reseeding costs were 75 percent covered by the federal government under the Emergency Watershed Protection program, and 25 percent was provided locally through donations and fund-raisers.
Jenkins said the homeowners paid nothing for the revegetation.
Some 2,100 acres of burned land was reseeded, costing $107,300. Helicopters dropped seed on 1,500 acres of the higher land while 200 acres were drill seeded and 400 acres were hand seeded, said Veda Hubbard of the NRCS.
Jenkins said volunteers from all over came to help with the planting.
“We had a lot of different types of people working,” she said.
“Publicity-wise, it was upfront all the time,” Jenkins said, speaking of the community effort. “There was a great effort, a constant effort.
“We did have a lot of different fund-raisers. A lot of people got involved in that.”
Despite the effort of the community, the floods of the winter wiped out a lot of the vegetation, Jenkins said.
There was loss in some areas and some gullies were washed away, Hubbard said.
“As far as the success of the seeding, no one has been up to check,” Hubbard said.
“Forty grade control structures were installed and held,” she said, “but it was such a vast area that it was hard to control.”
The erosion might have happened anyway without the fire, but it would not have been as devastating, said Jenkins.
Besides the direct damage from the fire and floods, some of the homes are now sandblasted and the windows are pitted because the vegetation is too small to block the winds and sand, Jenkins said.
However, some of this damage was expected, just not to this degree.
“When the seeds were put in the ground, we knew it would be three years before they germinated,” Jenkins said.
Despite the losses of the seeds, the enthusiasm of the community remained strong.
“We didn’t lose our interest time or window,” Jenkins said.
“The community did their thing and it was great. They saw a need and they took care of it.”