Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Caughlin Fire

       Thursday night it was windy in Tahoe. It was the kind of wind that woke you up in the middle of the night. The kind that made you think that trees might come crashing down. Luckily, when we get the chance, we are professional sleepers, so we were still able to get a good nights sleep. Early Friday morning however, Jon's radio went off. Reno was calling for additional assistance from departments in our area for the Pinehaven fire. It's not unusual for Jon's radio to go off, but it isn't often that we hear a call for an actual fire. Waiting to hear the stations respond to dispatch,  Jon and I grabbed his phone and looked up Reno news. Immediately we were shocked by images of a fire blazing. The Caughlin Fire (the fire was originally dubbed the Pinehaven fire, named after a street that it originated near, but it was later changed).
The fire supposedly started around 12:30am
in the foothills west of the City of Reno.
By the time we woke up, it was reported that the fire was over 400 acres,
and a few homes had burned.
Jon called his station to say that he was available,
and a few minutes later they called back and told him to get moving.
He was going to help.

I'm familiar with this area of Reno only because I got extremely lost one time
(when trying to find a medical office that specialized
 in ultrasounds while I was pregnant with Nolan), 
which took me on a very round-about and long drive.
As much as I dislike Reno, this area was pretty awesome.
It's quite mountainous, 
as it sits at the base of a range, 
and is made up of lots of winding neighborhoods.

I threw a couple of granola bars and a banana in a bag for Jon,
and he was out of our house in five minutes flat.
Throughout the day I followed the fire online
(and proceeded to bite off all of my nails), 
hearing from him only a couple of times via text.

There were plenty of images of devastation and intense flames.
The crazy wind continued in Tahoe
throughout the morning, and was predicted to continue until about 4:00pm.
When I let Blue out in the morning,
the wind was so loud that it was hard to make myself heard
calling his name over the blowing of the trees.
Knowing what the wind was doing to our neighborhood,
I could only imagine how it was affecting this fire.
The paper published a map of the fires perimeter and
the number of different subdivisions and houses 
that were threatened by its wide breadth, was alarming.
In the end, they reported that 4,900 homes had been at risk.

Only after Jon returned home did I learn that he saw many 
of the houses above, firsthand. 

Jon text me about twelve hours after he left our house,
letting me know that he wouldn't be coming home
and that they would be patrolling during the night. 
In the end, Jon was there for over thirty hours,
sleeping little.
The final total is  that 32 homes were destroyed,
and over 2000 acres were burned.
When he did finally get home he had a lot of stories to tell. 
Other then chapped lips and a head cold, he was in pretty good shape.
Apparently, he was on a strike team with five other engines from our area,
and they were assigned to protect the structures in a designated neighborhood.
He used google maps to show me the different terrain,
and areas that they were working in.
It helped me understand a bit how one home could burn,
while all others around it were spared,
and how some homes on the edge of the hillside were fine,
while others in interior neighborhoods didn't fare as well.

During the it hit me that if we stay in Tahoe,
our home at some point could very easily be threatened by wildfire.
In the past five years,
there was a devastating fire near South Lake Tahoe
as well as a smaller fire on the West Shore.
I guess it brings new meaning to defensible space.

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