Snowmaking equipment helps fight Gondola fire |

Snowmaking equipment helps fight Gondola fire

by Kurt Hildebrand
Director of the state Department of Agriculture, Paul Iverson, explains the proposed helicopter round up to wild horse enthusiasts in Virginia City on Friday. Photo by Kurt Hildebrand

Heavenly Ski Resort’s snowmaking equipment was pressed into service during the Gondola fire to help keep the blaze at bay.

Resort officials hand most of the credit for fighting the 700-acre blaze to the U.S. Forest Service and firefighters.

But the irrigation system used during the winter to put a layer of snow on the mountain came in handy when winds were driving the fire up the mountain toward the resort’s ski runs.

“We did use our irrigation system, which is part of the snowmaking system, to protect along the parameters of Boulder, Stagecoach and North Bowl ski runs,” said Molly Cuffe, the resort’s director of communications. “We also had the system running from the top of Edgewood up to the Olympic Area.”

There are 950 hydrants on the resort used in winter to make snow and during the summer to revegetate the runs.

“We used the hydrants and reservoirs for water,” Jim Larmore, Heavenly snowmaking manager, said. “We have a big irrigation system for regrowing grass for the runs. We went out and laid out a bunch of hose for sprinklers and helped the Forest Service make a line. It just worked out perfect for fighting fires.”

Cuffe said this was the first fire she has seen in five years of working at Heavenly.

“The real kudos go to the Forest Service firefighters and all their hard work,” she said. “Getting the fire 75 percent contained in such a short time was very fast work.”

In Carson Valley, the Red Cross Shelter closed at 5 p.m. Friday. Most of the 200 people staying at the shelter left when Kingsbury Grade reopened Thursday afternoon. The shelter, located at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School, did provide overnight accommodations for 34 people Thursday night.

According to Donna Brand of the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Red Cross, the shelter will reopen should the fire threaten homes.

Brand said the shelter was operated by Red Cross volunteers and Douglas County residents who helped out.

She said the Red Cross is seeking volunteers in both the Sierra Nevada and Sacramento Sierra chapters. Anyone interested should call Brand at 856-1000 or (916) 368-3131.