Can a devastating fire happen here again?

A year ago, fire season arrived on the heels of a half-dozen years of drought, and the warnings were dire.

Many homeowners swung into action, cleared their property and prepared their "defensible space" for the possibility wildfire would come their way. Others shrugged it off, or procrastinated to another day.

By July, of course, the worst had arrived. The Waterfall fire devastated Carson City's west-side hills, taking 17 homes and a business. Its fury and rapid spread meant some of those homes, no matter the precautions, were going to be lost.

But it's also true many homes were saved not only through the hard work of firefighting crews, but by the steps taken earlier to reduce brush and create barriers to fire.

This year, a wet winter and cool spring have changed the drought picture, but the threat of wildfire always remains. One need only check those same west-side hills, verdant a couple weeks ago, as they turn purple with cheatgrass and, eventually, brown with the heat of summer.

There's nothing like a major fire to remind residents that, yes, it can happen here. For those few who think it can't happen again, that's obviously wrong. We know how hard Carson City was hit by the Waterfall fire, and we're trying not to imagine what it would be like to relive that nightmare.

We know there will be fires this summer. We just don't know where.

So every warning given a year ago (and each fire season) should be taken to heart again. Please prepare for the worst. Please take basic precautions around homes anywhere near the Sierra Nevada forests or the sage-covered hills everywhere else - the precautions that will give firefighters a chance to save them.

If a summer like 2004 doesn't convince you, nothing will.


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