Andrew fire stirs too-fresh memories
August 26, 2004
Not again. Our initial reaction to the Andrew fire when it started on Wednesday afternoon was tied directly to the Waterfall fire. The memories remain much too fresh, the scars much too evident for everyone in Carson City when they hear another wildfire is raging.
Like the morning of July 14, the blue skies this Wednesday told us there was no chance the Andrew fire had been started by lightning. Sure enough, word came from fire officials that it was human caused.
Like July 14, the winds came up early and the blaze spread quickly. Homes were threatened and, soon, some were lost.
Also like the Waterfall fire, there were questions early on about the availability of firefighting resources. In Carson City, the concerns mainly were over air support. Big tankers weren’t flying or had been diverted to other fires in the West.
In Pleasant Valley, fire commanders on the ground could be heard asking desperately for more help to defend structures. Witnesses said hand crews, who are equipped with rudimentary tools mainly to clear brush and create fire breaks, were frustrated by the inability of fire engines to get to residences in the immediate path of the flames.
From what we can tell at this point, a significant part of the problem – perhaps the entire problem – was that fire trucks struggled to get through traffic that backed up along Highway 395.
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Some of it was commuter traffic, understandably log-jammed by road closures. Some of it was frantic residents trying to reach their own homes to gather valuables and pets. But some of it also was caused by gawkers who decided to drive down to see what all the excitement was about.
So not only was the fire human-caused – by someone target-practicing with a gun – but it may well have been exacerbated by unthinking humans who didn’t have the sense to get out of the way.
Fortunately, like Waterfall, no lives were lost in the Andrew fire. But people can’t keep playing roulette with fire in a drought-stricken state.