Muckers mash wildfire
May 19, 2005
Three Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering students looking to seal off abandoned mines near a remote campground favored by transients became ad-hoc firefighters this week when they spotted smoke at a site near the Carson River.
Students Noah Millett, Jay Gillon and Austin Leach were exploring the area several miles off Deer Run Road in the vicinity of the old Brunswick Mill with Bill Durban of the Nevada Division of Minerals for their summer internships.
“We noticed a little column of smoke and figured someone was just having a campfire along the river,” said Durban, recounting the windy Wednesday along the banks of the furiously energized Carson River.
“We went over to check it out and found a burnt-down trailer just kind of smoldering,” said Gillon. “It had obviously been going for a while. Then the wind picked up, and it started to spread.”
“We got a little worried when we saw the sage and the trees start to go up,” said Miller.
The three students quickly formed a bucket brigade, getting water from a nearby hole and from a bend in the muddy Carson rapids. They threw water on a cottonwood tree and a flaming area of waist-deep sage.
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The wind was rushing around, stirring things up and fueling the fire like gasoline, according to Durban, who rushed to get help.
“We were just trying to hold it off and keep it under control,” said Gillon. “Just trying to keep hitting the hot spots until the fire department could get here.”
An hour later, the trio had the flames under control as Carson City firefighters came and mopped up the rest with a watery foam.
Durban said BLM officials found hypodermic needles surrounding the trailer and while the cause of the original blaze is unknown, it appears suspicious.
The area where the trailer once stood is scorched with the black of burned earth and propane, overtaken by the relentless wind and the clamor of the racing river.
Durban and his team will be joined by three other students as they travel the state this summer, hoping to secure some of the estimated 50,000 mines left open after 150 years of mineral excavation.
The Division of Minerals oversees the statewide Abandoned Mine Public Safety Program.
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