Resident last saw home intact while running from flames |

Resident last saw home intact while running from flames

Ralph Vartabedian
Hugh Fenwick looks over the remains of his home in the Timberline subdivision above Carson City.

When American Airlines pilot Hugh Fenwick last saw his 4,400-square-foot house in the hills above Carson City, he was running from flames racing down a canyon.

Fenwick returned Friday morning to find the burned-out rubble of his Timberline dream home.

“Here was my front door,” said Fenwick, 37, a powerfully built man with sandy brown hair. “Total destruction. But you know, the only important thing about this is that nobody died. I can always rebuild the house – and I will.”

At the same time Nevada has been coping with drought, it has undergone explosive population growth. Subdivisions are pushing deeper into the desert scrub, placing homes next to highly combustible rabbit brush and sage brush.

The changes are forcing the Nevada Division of Forestry to develop firefighting plans so detailed that in many cases state officials plan how they will defend each individual house, said Rich Harvey, a resource program coordinator.

Each year, wildfires burn about 700,000 acres of Nevada land. In the past, such fires have typically burned out unpopulated tracts. Not any more.

Carson City has attracted a large population of retirees and refugees from big cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, people attracted by affordable custom homes on large lots in a state with low taxes.

But with climate experts warning that the West could be entering a period of long-term drought conditions, major events like the Carson City fire could become more routine.

“We have a problem, and we better get used to it,” Harvey said.

“The scary thing is that what we are going through is going to happen 100 times a year in the West,” said Stacey Giomi, acting Carson City fire chief.