Girls’ State delegates cool, despite fire’s threat
June 19, 2003
The Highway 50 fire was contained Wednesday morning at 8 a.m., but not before threatening future leaders at a nearby retreat Tuesday night.
Girls’ State was relocated to the Stewart facility farther down the road as the fire moved down the mountain toward the campsite.
Capitol police arrived on the scene first at the Clear Creek site Tuesday as the fire neared the Girls’ State event.
“They came up first, it’s their jurisdiction,” said Mike Connolly, education director and Girls’ State organizer. “We lost power and lost lights and lost sewer, and the fire came right down to the road. Basically, it was take your clean clothes, leave your dirty clothes.”
Cristina Brown, 18, from Pahrump, a junior counselor in the Girls’ State program, was in a general meeting when the news of fire was first heard.
“Everyone stayed calm for the most part,” Brown said.
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The decision to evacuate was made during dinner, which had been delivered courtesy of Grandma Hattie’s Restaurant with a police escort through fire lines, then everyone started wolfing down their food, according to Connolly.
“We’re doing a lot of improvising but were keeping our schedule,” Connolly said.
Ashley Rapazzo, 16, of Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas, is still running for the Assembly on Friday.
Delegates to Girls’ State and later Girls’ Nation participate in a mock national government to learn the importance of the individual in a democratic government.
Two citizens from every Girls’ State program will be selected to represent their state at Girls’ Nation in Washington, D.C., July 19-26.
“First the electricity went out then there were big balls of smoke and helicopters,” Rapazzo said. “I’ve never been in a fire before.”
Before shutting the bus windows to avoid inhaling smoke and ash, girls handed their cameras to officers to take their pictures between cell phone calls to friends and family. Forgetting to put the windows on the bus back up after the photo op, some of the girls later suffered from particulates in the air.
Senior counselor Anita Paquette said that, for the most part, the girls remained calm.
“Nobody got panicky at all. It was just another adventure for the girls, didn’t see any tears. Our main concern was the girls’ safety,” she said.
The American Legion Auxiliary administers Girls’ State and is the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization.
The former Stewart Indian School campus now houses various state offices.