The outdoor conditions at Friday afternoon's dedication of the Waterfall Fire Fountain at Western Nevada Community College reminded those present of the conditions last July when the fire started: hot and breezy and with a high fire hazard.
For Adam Johnson, a 22-year-old firefighter with the Nevada Division of Forestry, it brought the year full circle. Johnson, who was at the dedication with several others from the division, spent the third day of last year's fire battling "intense" and "intimidating" blazes in Lakeview.
"The fountain kind of brings it all together," he said as water trickled from two three-foot-tall rocks behind the Joe Dini Jr. Library and Student Center. "It's a red-flag warning that it could happen again, anytime, on a day just like today."
The fountain, under construction during last year's blaze, was designed to complement the back side of the newly built Joe Dini Jr. building. When WNCC President Carol Lucey saw the fountain in its completed state, she knew a dedication was in order.
"We dodged a bullet last year, but we didn't do it by ourselves," she said during the dedication. "On that Wednesday afternoon when Anne (Hansen) and I left about 3 o'clock, we thought we were going to lose at least one building."
Hansen, the director of marketing and information for the college, said the fire came close to both the school's Jack C. Davis Observatory and the Cedar Building, home to some of the school's expensive laboratory and computer equipment. Although the fire did not reach any of the buildings, it left its scorching marks close by on the burned hillsides above the school.
"We have to depend on the whole community," Lucey said. "We are our brothers' and sisters' keepers and they are ours."
Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong was another of those convinced the fire did not look good for the community college.
"As I came down the hill from the fire, I was sure at least one building (at WNCC) would be lost or would be in the front line," he said. "And the reason it didn't pass (WNCC) was because there were people up there fighting that fire."
He said it was only when he came down that he realized the firefighters battling the blazes were completely surrounded by the fire.
"They could not possibly have known because they didn't come down the hill," Furlong said.
Carson City Fire Chief Stacey Giomi remarked that the Waterfall fire was the most devastating in the history of the fire department.
"I am thankful there were no losses of life," he said. "I am especially thankful of that."
He said he was sure that when the fire went through Combs Canyon, firefighters or residents would have perished.
"What isn't expected, really, is the rallying together that happened in an event of this magnitude," he said. "That a town of some 60,000 people acts like a town of 6,000."
Also speaking were Mike Dondero from the Nevada Division of Forestry, Carson City Supervisor Robin Williamson and Gary Schiff and Tom Baker, both from the U.S. Forest Service.
Baker recognized Giomi for obtaining a grant from the Division of Forestry about three years ago and clearing biomass on the western side of the city.
"As bad as it was, it could've been worse," Baker said.
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.