Firefighter injured during Waterfall fire recalls burnover
Lyon County firefighter Kevin Kleinworth was one of two people injured when the Waterfall fire raced down Kings Canyon Road on July 14.
“It was heat like I never felt before,” Kleinworth said Wednesday, recalling the burnover that nearly took his life.
Shortly after 1 p.m., Kleinworth was part of a rescue crew extracting an injured firefighter from the ridge above Kings Canyon. As Kleinworth’s partner worked above to move the injured man into an area already burned, Kleinworth stayed down below as a “spotter,” to watch the fire’s activity. The blaze, believed started from an unattended campfire, had been burning since 3 a.m.
“Before it blew up, we all began to egress from the cul-de-sac because the fire was behind us and getting larger. We all recognized what was about to take place. It was very orderly and calm. No one was panicking at that point, but there was a sense of urgency that we needed to leave the cul-de-sac,” he said. “That’s when I saw the News 4 truck trying to make a three-point turn in front of me.”
Kleinworth was driving a Central Lyon County fire engine. In the time he waited for the news truck to turn around, flames engulfed his rig.
He jumped out. The heat was unbearable.
“I was completely surrounded, watching fire tornadoes going on in front of me.”
The part-time firefighter ran to the rear of his truck in search of someplace where the temperature wouldn’t melt flesh.
“I was trying to find a spot that was cool, anywhere, my face was just hurting so bad.”
Finally, he jumped into a Nevada Division of Forestry vehicle parked nearby.
“It’s funny,” he said, chuckling. “Even though I was burning and there was fire everywhere, I remember still being concerned about imposing. I kept thinking, ‘I can’t just jump into someone else’s vehicle. That’s rude.'”
He suffered burns to his face, neck and ears.
Kleinworth said he hadn’t read the findings of the Waterfall Incident Board of Review, but his was one of the 70 interviews investigators conducted.
Despite the board’s findings which suggest officials’ vehicles may have been facing in the wrong direction, Kleinworth said his recollection is the only vehicles parked backwards were two TV news trucks.
The other person injured in the burnover was reporter John Tyson of KOLO News Channel 8.
Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.