Memories still vivid of fire |

Memories still vivid of fire

Holly Atchison

On the afternoon of June 23, 1996, smoke and fear filled the Carson Valley as a fire roared through the Foothills.

Fueled by 48-mph winds and an abundance of dead and dry timber and brush, the fire raged for nearly three days before firefighters had it under control.

Now, one year later, the memories of this disaster are still fresh in the minds of people who were involved and witnessed the devastation.

The blaze, known as the Autumn Hills fire, destroyed an estimated 3,800 acres and four houses and forced the evacuation of more than 3,000 residents of the Foothill and Kingsbury subdivisions, according to Steve Frady of the Nevada Division of Forestry.

Two teen-age boys admitted to setting the fire by dipping a lizard into a pan of gasoline, lighting it on fire and letting it run into the brush.

More than 950 firefighters from Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington were called to help battle the fire, with more than 150 volunteers from area stations alone, according to Jim Reinhardt, East Fork Fire Chief.

“Every station had at least one piece of equipment there, and I would say the total was well over 150 volunteers that participated in the incident, in one way or another,” Reinhardt said.

“The volunteers of Douglas County did an outstanding job of protecting their neighbors’ homes. Without the quick response, we would have experienced more structure loss than what occurred.

“The volunteers’ dedication to training paid off. To only lose four structures in that magnitude is a great credit to the volunteers.”

There were several injuries, but no deaths were reported, Frady said.

“We were very, very fortunate that no one was killed,” Reinhardt said.

Monday night, rain fell and blessed the volunteers by helping to extinguish the fire.

Although the costs are still being evaluated, an estimated $2 million in property damage was sustained and an estimated $2.4 million was spent in suppression costs, Frady said.

The NDF has bills totaling $1.3 million which is part of the $2.4 million and includes the costs for the agency services, aircrafts, retardant and a portion of the rehabilitation; however, the costs are still being processed, said Frady.

Evacuated residents were allowed back into their homes Monday night when the area was determined safe. The fire was contained Tuesday night and was under control the next morning.

Once the fire was contained, the clean-up process began.