Thousands appreciate firefighters at barbecue |

Thousands appreciate firefighters at barbecue

Brad Horn/Nevada Appeal Russ and Susan Wheaton, above, of Nevada Street, five block from burned Rupert's Auto Body, applaud at the picnic on the Legislative lawn on Sunday. Carson City firefighters from left first row, Jesse Rowan, Gary Garrett, Bob Stanford and captains John Bergstrom and Bob Schreihans look on.

Thousands gathered on the Legislative lawn Sunday afternoon to honor firefighters and rescue workers who fought the 8,723-acre Waterfall fire along western Carson City.

As Minden’s Black Mountain Hot Shots walked across the stage, the audience stood up and cheered.

Glenda-Ann Block thanked each one personally. She fought the fire with a garden hose below C Hill before “two hot shot crews sent from heaven” showed up.

“If they hadn’t been there, that whole row of homes would have burned,” she said. “So I was determined to come down here and shake the hand of every firefighter I saw.”

The event was organized by several Carson City service groups.

“It started with Kiwanis, but it quickly expanded to all service clubs,” said unofficial emcee and Assemblyman Ron Knecht, R-Carson City.

Mayor Ray Masayko, Gov. Kenny Guinn, Sheriff Kenny Furlong and others addressed the crowd. City Manager Linda Ritter talked about the rehabilitation effort.

“Will the hillsides look the same as they did before?” she asked. “Not right away. It’s going to take some time. It may not be in our lifetime.”

Debbie Hayward and Sharon Wilson of Strictly Scuba moved among the crowd towing wagons of cut watermelon on ice.

“You know, the scuba store had flames right next to it so this is what little we could do,” Wilson said.

A huge banner donated by the Millard family – owners of the Plaza Hotel – was signed by hundreds of people and paraded in front of the crowd.

The Rockin’ Rev Ken Haskins opened the event with a prayer then provided oldies music on a sound system from McClain’s Mobile Music.

Several service groups hosted barbecue booths, handling out free hamburgers and hot dogs donated by Scolari’s, Smith’s, Safeway, Albertsons and others.

“It’s been a real neat community get-together,” said Mike Shaughnessy, a past Kiwanis council chairman. “I don’t know that it couldn’t continue as an annual event – without the fire, of course.”

Fallon firefighters on their TA-1500 brush truck sprayed a water cannon 500 feet in the air. Children played in the cool mist in front of the Supreme Court building.

Phil Elliott, president of the Carson City Host Lions Club, said he was sorry all the firefighters from out of town weren’t there.

“I was waiting at the light on Fifth Street last week, and so many fire trucks went by heading out of town it was like a parade,” he said.

Lona White, who lives near Carson Middle School, patted Pete Baker, chief of Warren Engine Company, on the arm.

“Nice job, fellas,” she said.

Firefighters who fought the Waterfall fire -which surged into homes on July 14 and 15 – say only one fire compared to it.

“San Diego last year,” said lead crew Kris Coston of the Black Mountain Hot Shots. “The flames just picked up and didn’t stop. It was a lot like San Diego – just a different fuel type.”

The crew ate burgers under a tree on the edge of the party. The lone female on the Black Mountain Hot Shots, Robin Ballachey, said it’s nice to be honored – sort of.

“(Fighting fire) is what we do. It’s our job. It feels good to be recognized but …”

Coston cut in.

“At the same time, it kind of makes you feel awkward,” he said.

Contact Karl Horeis at or 881-1219.