Life goes on after Waterfall |

Life goes on after Waterfall

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Josh Morris, 4, center, swings his little brother, Joey Morris, 1, in their back yard Wednesday with their cousin Danny Cecil, 4. Joey was born during the Waterfall fire last year.

Amid panic, chaos and heartache, Joey Morris was born.

Turning 1 year old today, the active toddler’s arrival was three weeks early on the day Carson City was ravaged by the Waterfall fire.

He came into the world July 14, 2004, via an emergency Caesarean section in a Carson-Tahoe Hospital operating room with a view.

“There was a huge window in there and all the doctors and nurses could see to the fire,” said mom Tina Morris. Worried they weren’t concentrating, she said she glanced at her obstetrician Dr. Ruth Tomita, who read her face.

“This is it, we are doing the C-section,” Morris recalled Tomita saying to get her crew refocused.

While flames demolished nearly every possession of 10 families, Mike Morris sat in the smoke-filled, partially evacuated hospital, waiting for news his wife and son were fine.

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As he waited, he watched the fire, “jumping from mountain to mountain,” just blocks away. The following day, eight more homes fell. By its end, more than 8,500 acres were burned.

A year later, some families are rebuilding, others are still planning. One bachelor has decided he’s too old to rebuild and another knows even if he does, it won’t be the same.

The hills, charred black, have begun to heal.

But they’ll never completely heal, at least not in this lifetime, said homeowner Mark Carter.

Where his Timberline home once stood was a forest of trees that no longer exist.

For little Joey, west Carson City never looked any different.

And the same can be said for Samantha Amrhein.

She was born a month early from the stress her mother, Dr. Kathi Amrhein, underwent when the family lost their Timberline home. The family’s new home is nearing completion.

Like the poppies and cornflowers that have sprung up in abundance in the scorched earth a year since, Samantha and Joey continue to grow.

And life goes on.

Tina Morris said despite Dr. Tomita’s concern for her own home in the path of the inferno, the obstetrician knew her job and did it well. Tomita’s home was untouched.

The doctor was unavailable for comment Wednesday. This week the Tomita family welcomed their own baby into the world.

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