History of fire
Fourteen noteworthy wildfires from the past century surrounding the Lake Tahoe area (in chronological order)
– 1926: Kings Canyon
A fire in Kings Canyon, just east of Carson City, killed five men, including two inmate fire fighters, a prison guard, a ranger from Glenbrook and a Virginia & Truckee Railroad worker.
– 1950: McClellan Peak
The lightning-caused McClellan Peak blaze burned almost to Virginia City. Photographs of the fire appeared in Life magazine, showing folks watching drive-in movies (where the Harley Davidson store in Carson City is now) with the fire blazing on the hill behind the screen. The fire burned for about three days.
– 1966: Ash Canyon
In July, the Ash Canyon Fire was started when a fishing father and son lost control of their camp fire west of Carson City. The blaze climbed the canyon’s south side and destroyed a property called the Water Company Ranch west of what is now the Long Ranch Park neighborhood. Several outbuildings were destroyed as the fire crossed Kings Canyon road and climbed C Hill. Firefighters from Carson City, Reno, Douglas County, Sparks, the Forest Service, Division of Forestry and Bureau of Land Management fought the blaze. It was the first time a helicopter was used to fight a fire near Carson City, according to retired fire chief Bernard Seace.
– 1972: Ash/Kings canyons
Three lives were lost during a fire above Ash and Kings canyons when a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter crashed. The craft was ferrying firefighters from Kings Canyon road to the fire when it went down. Three others were severely injured in the crash.
– 1980: Lakeview
The lightning-caused Lakeview Fire on Carson City’s north side was actually several scattered fires. Strong winds pushed flames through dry sagebrush on Duck Hill and around the Lakeview neighborhood. One home was destroyed above Western Nevada Community College.
– 1983: Centennial Park
The Centennial Park fire burned from northeast Carson City up to Mound House. Firefighter Keith Lemons was killed in the blaze after being caught in a burnover. Also, a Division of Forestry truck was struck by retardant dropped from a plane, injuring two firefighters seriously.
– 1987: Acorn Fire
The Acorn Fire in Alpine County began July 29, 1987, southwest of Woodfords, Calif., swept through Woodfords and almost to Carson Valley. Twenty-four homes were destroyed and approximately 6,000 acres burned.
– 1993: Cleveland Fire
The Cleveland Fire burned 20,000 acres along Highway 50 West near Placerville. It was human caused.
– 1996: Autumn Hills
In June the Autumn Hills Fire burned 3,800 acres near the base of Kingsbury Grade in Douglas County. The blaze destroyed four homes and numerous outbuildings. KMTM camerman Mike Conway was caught in the fire “primarily due to lack of training,” according to retired fire chief Bernard Seace. He was burned but survived.
– 2001: Martis Fire
More than 14,500 acres burned in Tahoe and Humbolt-Toiyabe national forests along the Interstate 80 corridor. Fought primarily by the U.S. Forest Service, the fire threatened the Reno watershed and the town of Floriston, Calif., was evacuated. It was human-caused.
– 2002: Cannon Fire
The biggest wildfire in the region in 2002 started June 15 near Walker, Calif. Before it was contained almost two weeks later, the Cannon Fire burned 24,000 acres and shut down Highway 395 for a week. About 1,600 firefighters fought to contain the blaze. On June 17, at the fire’s peak, a C-130 air tanker crashed after its wings snapped off in mid-flight. Pilot Steve Wass, 42, of Gardnerville, Nev.; co-pilot Craig LaBare, 36, of Loomis, Calif.; and flight engineer Michael Davis, 59, of Bakersfield, Calif., were killed.
– 2002: Gondola and Showers fires
Only 2,245 acres have burned in the Lake Tahoe Basin since 1973. Nearly half of those burned in 2002 during the Gondola and Shower fires at South Lake. The Gondola Fire, which burned 670 acres, was caused by a careless smoker – one of the leading causes of fires in the basin. The Showers Fire, which burned 294 acres, was caused by a small-plane crash.
– 2003: Highway 50 fire
About 510 acres burned in the middle of June at the intersection of Highway 50 and Highway 395 just southwest of Carson City. The blaze threatened 70 residences and 30 commercial properties. The Clear Creek Youth Camp was evacuated along with the residents of Voltaire Canyon.