Fire catches Kings family by surprise |

Fire catches Kings family by surprise

by F.T. Norton
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Ted Stokes looks at his burned WWII dog tags as his family and friends sift through the rubble of his Kings Canyon home Monday afternoon.

Ted Stokes moved into his Kings Canyon home Dec. 6, 1967.

When he left it during an evacuation Wednesday because of the Waterfall fire, the 77-year-old expected to return. His expectation was so great, the only thing he took with him was his razor because he hadn’t yet shaved that day.

“It was just a little spot of fire in the middle of that hill,” the former Carson City district attorney said Monday, standing outside of where the wall to his bedroom once was.

In a flash, the little fire, fed by afternoon winds, raged into an inferno that blasted east down the canyon, traveling both north and south on its way to destroying 15 homes and charring 7,600 acres.

The heat of the fire outside Stokes’ two-story home was so great, the window on a Jeep melted instead of shattering.

As his son, Kenny, and friends Steve and Nick Halen sifted through the ash on Monday afternoon, Stokes watched them unearth puddles of silver believed to have been heirlooms passed down through the family – the silverware.

“When three grandmothers passed, all their stuff came to this house,” said Kenny’s wife, Kristin. “All their silver was here.”

Not only were Ted Stokes’ belongings devoured by the flames, Kenny and Kristin Stokes had just sold their Dayton home and moved their things into the first floor of the last house on the right on Kings Canyon Road.

“Sometimes it’s overwhelming,” Kristin said of the loss. “But you take the first task that’s before you, and you complete it.”

Burned pages from a 1970 Carson High School yearbook fluttered by in the afternoon breeze as the Stokeses pulled from the ash delicate china cups still intact.

They also unearthed shotguns and pellet guns – nothing left but the steel barrels.

Kenny’s Big Bertha golf club was reduced to the head.

Kristin wondered if beneath what looked like the second-story kitchen she’d find her first-story bedroom, where she kept her earrings in a dresser.

Ted’s World War II dog tags were found, as were his monogrammed cufflinks, only one of them salvageable.

Kenny told his friends where “the neatest old roll top desk” used to sit.

He gave a tour of what should have been the recently remodeled bathroom.

And among all of this destruction, the Stokeses found laughter.

“I think I found an election pin from when Lincoln was president,” Steve Halen said, teasing Ted about his age.

“I don’t think I was old enough to vote then,” Ted replied smiling.

They looked in awe at what the fire had turned their things into. Globs of plastic, book pages that were so brittle the wind blew them apart, a tin aspirin box with the aspirin charred inside.

Will the family be fine?

“Absolutely,” Kristin said.

Will they rebuild?

“Probably, but not the same house,” Ted said. “It was a wonderful place, and I’ll always be sad that it burned.”

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