Carson City Fire Chief Stacey Giomi couldn't believe what some of his crew found recently in the middle of the dried brush surrounding the city: Spent firework shells.
"It's crazy to me that in these fire conditions that people are shooting these off in the wildlands," he said, boxes of old fireworks in front of him.
Fireworks were found during fuel-suppression operations - essentially clearing dried brush to create defensible space in case of a wildfire - near Voltaire, Brunswick and Ash canyons. The fire department had a member of the crew walking ahead of the machines to make sure no artifacts were disturbed. Instead, Giomi said, the crewman found firework shells.
"He's doing that and he finds these things," Giomi said, showing the casings that were found. "They've clearly been lit, and they're not just sparklers - this one says 'artillery shell' on it."
The fireworks were the type that shot fireballs into the sky, often with unpredictable landing areas.
"If you were writing a book on what not to do, this would be chapter one," Giomi said.
He recalled a fire from the recent past that started with two men shooting bottle rockets at each other that spread to between 50 and 70 acres. Fighting that fire ended up costing taxpayers about $70,000, Giomi said.
"it's not just the size of the fire, but the value of the area," that causes the costs to rise, Giomi said.
He noted that the recent shell findings were all near homes - which, given the tinderbox-like desert, are a stray firework and unfavorable wind away from danger.
Giomi said that when he was growing up in California, shooting off fireworks was a pastime. However, he said, the family lived in an area more fire resistant than Northern Nevada.
"We don't live in an environment where we can tolerate it," he said.