This week’s column is one that I never expected to write
By Don Quilici
This is a column that I never, in my wildest dreams, expected to write. I normally write about all different types of activities in the Great Outdoors that I think the readers might find interesting or useful to know or fun to do.
And, I was prepared to write this week’s column about taking a leisurely hike on the Winnemucca Lake Trail (near Kit Carson Pass) to enjoy the annual display of the wildflowers in that area.
Boy oh boy, did that ever change and in a big hurry!
I rarely take a stand on an outdoor issue in this column unless it is something that I have strong feelings about.
In fact, if my feeble memory is correct, one of the last times that I expressed a strong, personal opinion was way back in late 1999 when I wrote that Bradley Quilici of Lovelock (who is no relative of mine!) should not be appointed to the State Board of Wildlife Commissioners due to five previous convictions for various wildlife violations.
He was appointed and guess what?
He recently resigned from that commission due to allegations of even more wildlife violations.
Today’s column is to express my personal opinion about the Waterfall Fire.
That fire apparently began sometime early Wednesday morning, July 14, 2004, as a result of an abandoned campfire in the area of the waterfall in King’s Canyon.
The combination of that campfire, heavy growth in that area, very low humidity, abnormally dry conditions and high winds quickly turned the fire into a raging monster that completely devoured the west side of Carson City.
To date, the Waterfall Fire has:
Destroyed 15 homes.
Destroyed 25 outbuildings.
Destroyed one commercial building.
Destroyed a total of eight different vehicles, including one news truck and three fire apparatus.
Burned 8,723 acres.
Required a total of 1,901 firefighters, 37 hand crews, 123 fire engines, 16 bulldozers, 18 water tenders, 26 total aircraft including 3 heavy air tankers, 3 single-engine air tankers, 13 helicopters, 1 air attack and lead plane.
Injured five firefighters and one civilian (John Tyson of Reno KOLO TV).
Cost more than $5.6 million dollars and that cost is climbing daily.
Destroyed our valuable watershed.
There were evacuations of King’s Canyon at the beginning of the fire and those were followed by evacuations of other locations such as Ash Canyon, Kensington Estates, Wellington Estates, Silver Oaks, Timberline, Combs Canyon and Lakeview Estates, as that monster fire raced to the north, devouring anything and everything in its path.
Now, the west side of Carson City, stretching from about Koontz Lane on the south end of the city, all the way north to near the Washoe County Line at Duck Hill and to the summit of the mountains to the west is a desolate scene of blacken and scorched earth.
All kinds of trees, brush, bushes, plants and flowers in that huge area are now a thing of the past.
Many thousands of tall pine trees are now gone between Carson City and the top of the mountains. Sadly, those pines will never be replaced in my lifetime nor in the lifetime of the generation behind mine.
What was once a beautiful sight is now black and barren.
Countless numbers and types of wildlife were destroyed in that fire storm, when there was no time nor place to flee for all of those animals, birds and reptiles in that area.
And, all of this misery and destruction is the direct result of an illegal, abandoned campfire.
Hopefully at some point in the future, the culprits will be identified, charged and found guilty. When that happens, I, for one, hope that the authorities throw the book at them.
In this age of being lenient and “Politically Correct,” it would be criminal if those culprits got off with a sentence such as a small fine, some community service and an apology to the victims.
Quite to the contrary, I hope they have the book thrown at them, now, and for the rest of their miserable lives.
Let them be hammered into the ground, and forever be identified as the culprits who were the cause of the Waterfall Fire which altered the lives of so many innocent residents of this community, the entire community itself and our mountainous countryside.
If my home or business were one of those destroyed or damaged, if I were one of the many hundreds and hundreds of innocent people who had to evacuate their homes, if I were one of the many firefighters or emergency personnel who risked their lives to save others, If I were one of the people who were terrified by that firestorm, if I were one of the many people who suffered respiratory problems from that thick, choking smoke, I would have a hard time accepting a sentencing of something such as a small fine, some community service and an apology to the victims.
How could you possibly look someone in the eye, who just lost their home and all of their irreplaceable possessions, because you walked away from an illegal campfire in a mountainside?
Plus, you can bet the ranch that, within a short period of time, whoever is responsible for that campfire will be right back at doing what they were doing before, with no remorse or worry about the aftermath of their actions. It will be business as usual in their world.
Whoever it is, teenager or adult, caused unbelievable damage, grief, stress, worry and fear to both the residents of Carson City and to all of those who helped save this great city of ours.
The guilty parties should be held accountable, in the sternest manner, for the results of their actions.
If I had the ability to do so, when they have been identified and found guilty, I would send them to prison to reflect on what they did to what once was a beautiful place to live.
That’s my opinion.
I have often said on many occasions, both publicly and privately, that because of our worsening drought conditions, low humidity, dying and parched forests and the Wildland interface of dwellings and forests that it was not a question of IF we were going to have a major disaster in this area but only a question of when.
At those times, I was referring to the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Never in my wildest dreams, did I ever dream that it was going to happen right here in Carson City.
On Wednesday, July 14, 2004, that prediction became a horrible reality.