Numbers Fire claims at least a half-dozen homes |

Numbers Fire claims at least a half-dozen homes

Firefighters are still working at the Numbers Fire to do rehabilitation and check on hotspots.
Kurt Hildebrand

Neighbors living in the eastern reaches of Fish Springs say at least a half-dozen homes were lost in the Numbers Fire.

Thirty-year resident Auralee Kolbe listed at least six homes destroyed in the fire.

At least five fundraisers have been posted to for residents burned out of their homes.

Kolbe said she and her husband lost their home and a dozen outbuildings.

“It wasn’t just a home, it was a settlement,” she said. “We lived for 36 years off the grid.”

Kolbe said they evacuated on Monday night with their horse and four dogs. They’re living in a camp trailer on her brother-in-law’s property.

“We have family and a place for the horse and a way to hook up,” she said. “I know the local firefighters do their damnedest, but no attempt was made to save any of those homes. There are people up there who had no insurance and no place to go.”

Kolbe said she believes her Pinenut Road property survived the night of July 6 and was lost on the following day.

The fire started 7 p.m. July 6 near Highway 395 above Pineview Estates where authorities believe it was ignited by sparks from a semi with a faulty exhaust system. The fire threatened the Pine Nut community and neighboring Bodie Flat, in addition to China Spring Youth Camp.

Then a late-night shift in the wind sent flames north toward the fringes of Fish Springs and into the vicinity of the old Sierra Spirit Ranch, where Kolbe’s and other homes were lost. The fire burned north crossing Pine Nut Road, cutting a swath across private property between Robison Road and Lena Lane.

By the time the fire was fully contained, it had consumed 18,380 acres, making it the second largest fire in Douglas County history. Cost estimates for fighting the fire are near $5 million and at one point more than 600 firefighters were working the blaze.

While the official count is three homes and 37 outbuildings, that number was first released last week before residents of the area were allowed back in to survey the damage.

Kolbe said the big fire tanker used to drop retardant on the fire didn’t seem to recognize there were homes in the area.

A single red streak could be seen on the hillside above Pine Nut Creek. Kolbe said that when the Bison Fire burned in 2013, firefighters were able to cut lines and drop retardant around their homes.

East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini said a lot of the aircraft were dropping water instead of retardant.

Two Super Scoopers filled up at Topaz Lake to dump water on the fire, along with helicopters moving water from the East Fork to the top of the Pine Nuts.

The jets dropping retardant had longer runs and therefore shorter times over the fire.

“We have, in fact, identified a few more structures lost,” he said. “This was a rapidly evolving fire and at night. It was a very difficult situation with multiple starts and fronts.”

He said firefighters ordered additional aircraft, which took time they didn’t have.

“We could only estimate when these structures may have been lost,” he said. “We do know for sure the timing of one loss, as we had to abandon positions when the fire blew through and ignited the structure.”

He said firefighters took the loss of structures hard.

“It has been a while since we lost structures in a fire like this,” he said. “We did our best to save as many structures as possible and we did save will over 75 that I’m aware of. We always take it personally, and I know many members of my staff do as well, when we lose structures.”