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July 19, 2005

The Waterfall Fire: One Year Later

One year ago, the Waterfall Fire swept through Carson City and the hills outside of town. It was one of the biggest wildfires Carson’s ever seen, and one of the most devastating, with a total of 18 houses lost.

Soon after the fire, I drove up Kings Canyon and took pictures of the aftermath. Burnt trees, melted cars, whole hillsides blackened. There were some pretty devastated areas, but there were also remarkable saves where the firefighters managed to protect a house while everything around it was turned to ash.

Last week I went back up Kings Canyon and rephotographed many of those pictures. I wanted to see what kind of progress there has been in the devastated areas, how good of a job man and nature have done at springing back and reclaiming their land. And the results are pretty amazing. For one, all the blackened bushes and hillsides are gone, replaced with new grass and weeds. Fire is one of the best ways to rejuvenate an area and get things growing again. Of course, all the new grasses have already died and are quickly drying out, so the fire danger in the canyon is probably just as high as it was last summer. Think that once you have a wildfire you can’t have another one for a couple of years? Think again.

It’s also good to see that many of the houses are being rebuilt. Most of them are just in the early stages, still laying the foundations. And I think that’s because a lot of people have been fighting for the last year with insurance policies that aren’t paying out enough to cover the cost of rebuilding. Then on top of that there’s all the work of clearing the lot, hauling away debris, and removing the burnt trees (there are a lot fewer trees up there now, since most all the dead ones have already been removed). Plus there’s the emotional toll this took on a lot of people. Some folks took six months, or even longer, just to make up their minds if they wanted to rebuild or not. A few decided not to, but most of them are rebuilding. The Nevada Appeal revisited most of the families for the anniversary, and I linked to the stories in this post.

So I took the pictures from last year, and the pictures from this year, and I’ve put them together into a photo gallery that I call The Waterfall Fire: One Year Later. There are two pages to it, and it’s online now over at AroundCarson.