Acting fire chief has ‘trial by fire’
About 3:20 a.m. Wednesday, Stacey Giomi got the first call of a fire in Kings Canyon. By 3:40, he had left his Ash Canyon home to assess the blaze.
“As soon as I left my driveway, I could see it,” he recalled. “When I got to the fire, seeing the activity of the fire, the way it was behaving and because of the drought and because of our conditions, I knew it had the potential to be very serious.”
And it was. The Waterfall fire, which is now 95 percent contained, scorched 7,600 acres and destroyed 15 Carson City homes.
As fire marshal, Giomi led the firefighting efforts because Fire Chief Louis Buckley is in Canada on vacation.
“Would I have preferred not to be in the role? Probably,” Giomi said. “But once you get to the chief officer level, we’re all trained when it comes to responding to fires. That’s what we do.”
Not long after the Carson City Fire Department arrived on the scene, Nevada Division of Forestry and the U.S. Forest Service crews joined them.
Giomi is quick to give credit to other agencies involved, including other firefighters, city government and the sheriff’s department.
“Within a couple of hours, we had federal, state and local agencies on the fire,” he said. “We not only had cooperation between fire agencies but internally as a city. We worked very well together.
‘The best you can hope for in these kind of situations is controlled chaos.”
And, at times, Giomi had to set aside his personal chaos.
As the fire spread into Ash Canyon, he called to tell his wife she needed to evacuate their home there.
“She took the dogs and some pictures and got out, like everybody else,” he said.
“Of course I was concerned, but I couldn’t leave the fire. You sort of get used to putting that aside.”
His wife returned the following day to find their home safe.
Not everyone was as fortunate. Along with the homes that were destroyed, several other structures and a business burned.
Giomi said there was nothing firefighters could have done to prevent the damage.
“If we had a $50 million budget, we couldn’t have stopped that fire,” he said.
“It’s like trying to stop a tornado. That’s literally what we’re doing when we’re trying to push the fire around the houses.
“You’re not going to put the fire out until it’s ready to be put out.”
Although Giomi praises everyone who fought the fire, he watched first-hand as his own department worked.
“I think our guys did some of the most valiant and courageous firefighting I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough.”
He is also appreciative of the community.
“The outpouring of support from this Carson City community has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said.
“It gives all off us a huge boost when we have to be away from our families four or five days at a time.”
The fire is now nearly contained, but Giomi said the work is far from over.
“There’s an awful lot of recovery still to go,” he said. “That’s going to be as much work as putting out the fire, for the people of the community and us as a local government.”
Contact Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 881-1272.