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Reno Gazette-Journal from Reno, Nevada • Page 4
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Reno Gazette-Journal from Reno, Nevada • Page 4

Reno, Nevada
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THURSDAY, AUGUST 26, 2004 4A RENO FIRE SEASON Andrew Fire WildfireMan who started blaze tried to put it out 'A From 1 A according to reports received by the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center. Geiger Grade remained closed Wednesday night. As of that time, fire containment was at 10 percent. Eight additional homes and four other outbuildings were damaged and about 200 outbuildings were threatened, officials said. The fire, pushed by westerly winds gusting up to 40 mph, rocketed through brushy terrain toward neighborhoods in its path, fire officials and witnesses said. "Man, it justexploded. It literally exploded," said John Brodie, a resident of the Toll Road area. Brodie watched two homes across the street from his Ra-mona Road residence burn quickly to the ground. 'About brought me to tears' "It was moving as fast as the wind," Brodie said. "It about brought me to tears." The fire was started by Otis Armand, a visitor to the area, who was practicing with his gun along a dirt road off Washoe Valley's East Lake Boulevard, said Capt. Bill Burney of the Reno Fire Department. "He tried to put it out with dirt, and it just spread up the canyon," Burney said. "Let me tell you, it burned a lot of homes in a short amount of time." Armand is cooperating with authorities but could potentially be held liable for fire suppression costs and property damage, said Larry Farr, a battalion chief with the Reno Fire Department. It was legal for Armand to be target shooting where he was, Farr said. "He's very concerned, very upset," Farr said. An unidentified female driver was injured when she rammed her Volkswagen Jetta into a Nevada Division of Forestry truck in a spot on Andrews Lane where smoke had reduced visibility to zero, Farr said. The woman was taken to the hospital with injuries that were not believed to be life-threatening. No other inj uries were reported. Fourteen air tankers and seven helicopters tried to slow the fire with water and chemical fire retardant. Dozens of fire engines and hundreds of firefighters converged on the scene. The Type 1 oversight team sent in to Tin DunnReno Gazette-Journal FIREFIGHTING: Their heads bowed in a fruitless attempt to avoid the smoke, a firefighting team Wednesday afternoon prepares to battle the blaze off Andrew Lane. manage the Andrew Fire signals the blaze is among the highest priorities in the country. By late in the afternoon, the the Virginia Highlands, but officials were watching the blaze's movements closely. Michele Hagan watched a On -1 tire was burning rjLnli st pray to steep, pinyon tO God OUT pine-covered ter- r- r- rain of the vir- firefighters do what lightning-sparked wildfire burn uncomfortably close to her Andrew Lane-area home during the summer of 2001. "This time it's a lot closer" they do others were ordered to leave. "All people have to go. It's a mandatory evacuation," Deputy Francisco Gamboa shouted as smoke whirled in the air. Rhodes Road resident Marti Tote got the same orders as she and her family anxiously watched nearby flames. "We don't want to do anything stupid. They asked us to leave," Tote said. "If it comes over that hill, we'll do what's safe." Tote was waiting for a trailer to take some of her horses away. "We just have our clothes, our essentials," Tote said. "We grabbed some pictures and we'll just pray to God our firefighters do what they do best." ginia Range. At one point Wednesday, firefighters reported Marti Tote Rhodes Road resident '1 a tire front some eight miles long. "That thing flashed up very fast, and it's still moving very rapidly," said Franklin Pember-ton, fire information officer. Wednesday night, the fire presented no immediate threat to Hagan said as flames chewed through brush just yards from her residence. "Last time they said we had a pretty good break. I guess we'll see." Moments later, a sheriff's cruiser sped up, and Hagan and David B. ParksiReno Gazette-Journal PET CARE: Chris Schwartz, 15, loads family pets into a vehicle Wednesday as he prepares to evacuate his Andrew Lane home. EvacueesMost residents are allowed to return home Tin DumReno Gazette-Journal ROUNDUP: A man and a woman lead a runaway horse to safety along Toll Road during Wednesday's Andrew Fire south of Reno. DETAILS Fighting the fire: About 555 firefighters were battling the blaze. In action were 57 engines, six bulldozers, seven water tenders, and 1 1 hand crews (each totaling about 20 members per crew) from the U.S. Forest Service, the federal Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Nevada Division of Forestry. Air resources included 14 fixed-wing aircraft, six helicopters and three air-attack and lead planes. WEATHER Firefighters are hoping that weather conditions today will allow progress in battling the blaze. "They're anticipating more wind (today), because the high winds are what drove this fire (Wednesday)," said Franklin Pemberton, a Sierra Front fire information officer. "We're hoping winds calm down." Today's forecast calls for mostly sunny skies in the morning, then becoming partly cloudy. There's a slight chance of showers in the afternoon. Highs of 73 to 83 are predicted with northwest winds 10 mph to 15 mph. A chance of showers remains tonight with northwest winds up to 1 0 mph. "Any time you have an established fire, even a little bit of wind can cause a problem, especially if it's gusty," Pemberton said. "Basically, winds are coming off the Sierra, and when they hit Washoe Valley, they tend to swirl and become erratic. That just spreads the fire in different directions." As for rain, "We love the rain, but we don't like the wind that comes before it," Pemberton said. "It can (worsen) the situation initially because of the winds that come before the rain. You don't always get the rain directly over the fire. You sometimes get just the wind." ANIMAL ASSISTANCE Nevada Humane Society-331- 5770. The Nevada State Prison can take up to 10 dogs. Mlus Animal Hospital: 852- Washoe Valley Ranch: 849-3232. Bonde Lane Animal Hospital-851-3151. The Sierra Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross is not accepting pels but has details on where pets can be taken. Call (775) 856-1 000. Source: Complied by David Jacobs of the RGJ staff from interviews. News 4 and tfi National Weather Service. From 1A grab the cats and computers. Everything else can go up in flames." Most of the residents were allowed to return to their homes around 6:30 p.m. but were warned to be ready to evacuate if the fire flared. Residents in other areas affected by the fire were advised to retrieve only their belongings and then stay elsewhere overnight in case the fire worsened. One woman fell to her knees at the evacuation center, fraught with worry that her pets would perish in flames. Dogs In cages "I've got three dogs in the house in cages," said Diana Schuler, a Toll Road resident who shivered with fear. "One neighbor is afraid to let them out. She is afraid that the dog will bite her. Oh, I hope to God that they can get my animals out. They are helpless in those cages." Another woman worried about her husband, who was alone in their Pleasant Valley home. "My husband is an elderly man," Ann Dudgeon said. "He would never answer the phone or open the door, so I hope that it (fire) doesn't come by our house." Some South Reno residents whose neighborhoods were hit by the fire were able to learn the status of their homes by cell phone. HrcfigJrtept save home Shirley Hopkins, who lives on Neilson Road, said two of her neighbors' homes were destroyed, but firefighters had saved hers. "The firefighters were alert and ready," she said. "They would not allow the house to burn down." Firefighters, however, were unable to save three cars owned by Hopkins husband. That loss, however, might be a blessing in disguise, she said. "They were old junk cars," Hopkins said. "My husband, he works on cars at our house, and these have been here for years. So I say good riddance." Authorities said a man firing a I gun started the fire. That seems plausible to Andrew Lane resi-, dent David Jones. "There's a lot of hills and backcountry back here," Jones said. "You only have to go a couple of hundred yards, and you're in the mountains. Every once-in a while you hear guns going off." Evacuees at Galena High were upset to hear that the fire was considered human-caused. "It makes me feel angry," said Donna Bak of Pleasant Valley. "It means that all this was unnecessary. It is just unfathomable the same situation as Carson City." Bak was referring to the Waterfall Fire in July, which destroyed 17 homes and almost 9,000 acres around Nevada's capital city. "Give him (the person who started the fire) a knuckle sandwich from me," said Misty Corson, a Hot Springs Road resident. Lawrence Moorehead, who helps care for 13 foster children ana his wife's invalid mother in his Virginia City Foothills home, was worried that the children and his mother-in-law could be evacuated. He had attempted to get back home to help but was turned Earlier, another Quilici truck carrying more than 4,000 gallons arrived in the Andrew Lane area to patrol the neighborhood and put water on any flames that came close, Quilici said. "I just wish they had let that second truck through because that's a lot of water that's not allowed in the neighborhood," Quilici said. Some south Reno residents said troopers should have been more understanding about the plight of people barred from their homes. "I saw a policeman get into a cursing match with another driver," Misty Corson said. "Their (troopers') frustrations are understandable, but they should put themselves in our shoes, too." NHP spokesman Chuck Allen said he did not know the details of the incidents, but suspects the troopers were just following orders. "They're directed by the supervisor to shut down all traffic, and that's pretty much what they're going to do," Allen said. RGJ reporters Steve Timko and Sue Voyles contributed to this story. Liz MarfanaVReno Gazette-Journal WATCHFUL EYES: People watch the Andrew Fire on Wednesday from Windy Hill in South Reno. away by the Nevada Highway Patrol. "It's stressful not to be able to go in there," Moorehead said. "I tried to explain to authorities that I had a lot of kids in there, and I needed to help them get organized. But they would not let me in. It is so frustrating." Moorehead was calmer later in the evening, after his adult daughter had successfully led the evacuation. "The home, the items, those things are replaceable," Moorehead said. "It's the people I'm worried about." Moorehead was not the only south Reno resident frustrated by the Nevada Highway Patrol roadblock at Mount Rose Highway and U.S.395. NHP troopers also held up a water tanker volunteered for fire duty by Andrew Lane resident Kevin Quilici, owner of Quilici Construction in Reno.

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