Winds whip up fires in Carson Valley |

Winds whip up fires in Carson Valley

by Christy Chalmers

High winds whipped chimney embers into an inferno that destroyed a Topaz Ranch Estates residence Tuesday.

Firefighters responded to what was initially described as a wildland fire around 8:40 a.m. at 1410 Walkerview Road and instead found the residence, a single-wide mobile home, fully engulfed.

The owner, identified by a neighbor as Marvin McLaughlin, 90, and three other occupants were safely evacuated, but the structure and contents were lost.

East Fork Fire Marshal Steve Eisele said the fire was caused by chimney embers that ignited a mattress and pine needles outside the home, which in turn ignited three pinon trees. The heat from the trees melted the siding on the house and broke windows, and the fire spread into the home.

“There was nothing they could do,” said Eisele. “It just took off.”

Red Cross representatives responded to help McLaughlin and his family members.

The fire was the third in two days. East Fork, Bureau of Land Management and Nevada Division of Forestry crews spent Monday afternoon quelling a small fire that developed at the site of an earlier controlled burn in the Job’s Peak Ranch subdivision above Foothill Road.

Eisele said brisk winds rekindled a slash pile. An estimated two to three acres burned, but no houses were threatened.

Soon after the Job’s Peak fire was controlled, a possible house fire was reported on Centennial Drive in Genoa.

Crews found smoke belching from the basement area of the house and contained the fire before it reached the home’s living areas. House guest David Reynolds of Blacksburg, Va., the only occupant at the time, said he initially thought the smoke was from some small candles that were burning, but then realized the smoke seemed to be coming from the ventilation system. He also found the home’s water and phone lines were inoperable, and ran to a neighboring house to call 911.

Eisele said Tuesday that the cause of the fire had not been determined, although “it’s not suspicious.”

He said the home’s furnace, water heater and well machinery were in the basement, as well as paint and other potentially flammable items.

Eisele estimated damage to the home at $30,000, both from structural damage caused by the fire and damage to contents.

Red Cross representatives made arrangements for the occupants.

The three fires and the windy conditions during which they occurred prompted Eisele to remind residents that preventive measures are especially important, even in the middle of January.

Spark arresters and clear, defensible space can make the difference between saving and losing a home.

” Keep the trees back, keep debris away from the house, put spark arresters on the chimney and keep it clean,” said Eisele. “We haven’t had any moisture and those pine needles and grasses are still just dry.”

Donations to Marvin McLaughlin can be arranged by calling 266-4371.