Family survives night on burning mountain |

Family survives night on burning mountain

by F.T. Norton
Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Richard and Peggy Sullivan stand in their home in the Timberline neighborhood Friday. The couple spent an anxious night Thursday protecting their home as the Waterfall Fire raged around them.

Despite the fast-moving inferno engulfing the houses surrounding them, Peggy Sullivan knew she couldn’t convince her husband, Richard, to leave their Timberline-area home Thursday afternoon.

So instead of worrying about him all night like she had Wednesday when she left and he stayed behind, Peggy decided to remain by his side.

She was still there when Sheriff Kenny Furlong happened upon her weary husband, breathless and using a garden hose to wet the land around their Westwood Drive home. The sheriff begged the man to leave.

Richard Sullivan refused.

“He’s stubborn,” his wife of 40 years said.

The two spent an anxious night amid the flames and fire crews to awaken Friday morning with their lives and their house.

“We put all our life savings into this house and I wasn’t going to let it burn down,” the 30-year-veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

Side by side with the younger men, and as far as his hose would take him, Richard Sullivan, 67, put out spot fires surrounding his house. He had his garage door open for Peggy and him to escape should the “big front of the fire come.” He knew enough about fires to appreciate the situation.

About midnight the battle had been won and Richard was able to go inside and rest.

At 4 a.m. he awoke and walked outside half expecting the newspaper to be there. It was not.

“Then I looked west and saw the big red sky and knew that the fire was still going that way,” he said.

When police came around Friday afternoon to tell all recently returned Timberline residents they had to evacuate again, Peggy – a fireman’s daughter and a fireman’s wife – convinced Richard to leave, she said.

Richard said the conditions convinced him to leave.

“I know that most everything around us is burned. There’s nothing left,” he said.

And after a night shoulder to shoulder with firemen he’d never met, Richard found faith.

“These were excellent fire crews,” the old fire chief said. “They did an outstanding job.”

Contact F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.