Looking back at Douglas County’s most expensive fire | RecordCourier.com

Looking back at Douglas County’s most expensive fire

Shannon Litz

A year ago today, firefighters were battling the 7,500-acre TRE blaze that claimed two homes, several outbuildings and a score of vehicles.

Four days after high winds fanned embers from a controlled burn into a conflagration, parts of the Pine Nuts above the southern Douglas County community were still smoldering.

While the TRE fire was the exclamation point in last year’s record fire season, mountains around Carson Valley had experienced at least two wildfires before the big blaze.

Residents of Pine View Estates who had seen the 3,900-acre Ray May Fire the year before were subjected to a quarter-acre fire near their home in the Pine Nuts.

A little more than a week later, a transformer exploded behind a Jacks Valley Road home and set a late night fire that was actively burning at midnight.

Temperatures in the first three weeks of May last year were quite a bit warmer than they have been this year, and the month was drier.

According to records kept by The Record-Courier, there were nine days with temperatures warmer than 80 degrees leading up to the date of the TRE fire. The controlled burn that sparked the fire occurred on the year’s first 90-degree day.

East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini said the difference is clear in the relative humidity and fuel moisture compared to last year.

“They are both a little bit higher because of the rains we had this year that we didn’t have last year,” he said Friday.

One other change is that backyard burning ended for the season last weekend, removing one source for ignition that proved catastrophic last year.

One of the impacts of the TRE fire is the revision of the county’s backyard burning ordinance. Neighbors in Topaz Ranch Estates called 911 the morning that Steven Cozad and Kim Carlin were conducting their burn because it was getting too big. By the time firefighters arrived it was back within regulations, so they let the burn continue.

But two days later, when the winds picked up, the fire took off across the street, burning down two homes and forcing residents to flee the flames. Both Cozad and Carlin still face misdemeanor charges for failing to properly extinguish the burn. By the time the fire was contained on May 27, it cost $3.4 million to fight, making it the single most expensive fire in Douglas County history.

That was not the end of last year’s fire season. The Preacher fire was started by lightning just a few days later, and burned 1,070 acres on June 1. Another lightning-caused fire, the Preacher fire burned 1,093 acres on July 22. The Carter Springs fire burned 3,454 acres in the Pine Nuts on Sept. 21.