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Evacuees worry about loved ones, stranded pets
Ray Hagar

August 26, 2004

South Reno residents stood, worried and watched smoke bellow into the sky from the Red Cross evacuation center at Galena High School on Tuesday evening.

The residents had either been evacuated from or blocked from returning to their homes by authorities.

Most were concerned about loved ones and pets stranded in homes along the path of the Andrew Fire.

Others worried about personal belongings going up in smoke.

"I'm worried about everything we have ever owned and worked for," said Dana Corson, a machinist who was barred from returning to his home on Hot Springs Road. "I wish they would let me just run in and run out. I'd grab the cats and computers. Everything else can go up in flames."

Most of the residents were allowed to return to their homes around 6:30 p.m. but were warned to be ready to evacuate if the fire flared.

Residents in other areas affected by the fire were advised to retrieve only their belongings and then stay elsewhere overnight in case the fire worsened.

One woman fell to her knees at the evacuation center, fraught with worry that her pets would perish in flames.

Dogs in cages

"I've got three dogs in the house in cages," said Diana Schuler, a Toll Road resident who shivered with fear. "One dog is protection-trained, so the neighbor is afraid to let them out. She is afraid that the dog will bite her. Oh, I hope to God that they can get my animals out. They are helpless in those cages."

Another woman worried about her husband, who was alone in their Pleasant Valley home.

"My husband is an elderly man," Ann Dudgeon said. "He would never answer the phone or open the door, so I hope that it (fire) doesn't come by our house."

Some South Reno residents whose neighborhoods were hit by the fire were able to learn the status of their homes by cell phone.

Firefighters save home

Shirley Hopkins, who lives on Neilson Road, said two of her neighbors' homes were destroyed, but firefighters had saved hers.

"The firefighters were alert and ready," she said. "They would not allow the house to burn down."

Firefighters, however, were unable to save three cars owned by Hopkins' husband. That loss, however, might be a blessing in disguise, she said.

"They were old junk cars," Hopkins said. "My husband, he works on cars at our house, and these have been here for years. So I say good riddance."

Authorities said a man firing a gun started the fire. That seems plausible to Andrew Lane resident David Jones.

"There's a lot of hills and backcountry back here," Jones said. "You only have to go a couple of hundred yards, and you're in the mountains. Every once in a while you hear guns going off."

Evacuees at Galena High were upset to hear that the fire was considered human-caused.

"It makes me feel angry," said Donna Bak of Pleasant Valley. "It means that all this was unnecessary. It is just unfathomable - the same situation as Carson City."

Bak was referring to the Waterfall Fire in July, which destroyed 17 homes and almost 9,000 acres around Nevada's capital city.

"Give him (the person who started the fire) a knuckle sandwich from me," said Misty Corson, a Hot Springs Road resident.

Lawrence Moorehead, who helps care for 13 foster children and his wife's invalid mother in his Virginia City Foothills home, was worried that the children and his mother-in-law could be evacuated.

He had attempted to get back home to help but was turned away by the Nevada Highway Patrol.

"It's stressful not to be able to go in there," Moorehead said. "I tried to explain to authorities that I had a lot of kids in there, and I needed to help them get organized. But they would not let me in. It is so frustrating."

Moorehead was calmer later in the evening, after his adult daughter had successfully led the evacuation.

"The home, the items, those things are replaceable," Moorehead said. "It's the people I'm worried about."

Moorehead was not the only south Reno resident frustrated by the Nevada Highway Patrol roadblock at Mount Rose Highway and U.S. 395.

NHP troopers also held up a water tanker volunteered for fire duty by Andrew Lane resident Kevin Quilici, owner of Quilici Construction in Reno.

Earlier, another Quilici truck carrying more than 4,000 gallons arrived in the Andrew Lane area to patrol the neighborhood and put water on any flames that came close, Quilici said.

"I just wish they had let that second truck through because that's a lot of water that's not allowed in the neighborhood," Quilici said.

Some south Reno residents said troopers should have been more understanding about the plight of people barred from their homes.

"I saw a policeman get into a cursing match with another driver," Misty Corson said. "Their (troopers') frustrations are understandable, but they should put themselves in our shoes, too."

NHP spokesman Chuck Allen said he did not know the details of the incidents, but suspects the troopers were just following orders.

"They're directed by the supervisor to shut down all traffic, and that's pretty much what they're going to do," Allen said.

RGJ reporters Steve Timko and Sue Voyles contributed to this story.

o o o


Fighting the fire: About 555 firefighters were battling the blaze. In action were 57 engines, six bulldozers, seven water tenders, and 11 hand crews (each totaling about 20 members per crew) from the U.S. Forest Service, the federal Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Nevada Division of Forestry. Air resources included 14 fixed-wing aircraft, six helicopters and three air-attack and lead planes.


Firefighters are hoping that weather conditions today will allow progress in battling the blaze. "They're anticipating more wind (today), because the high winds are what drove this fire (Wednesday)," said Franklin Pemberton, a Sierra Front fire information officer. "We're hoping winds calm down."

Today's forecast calls for mostly sunny skies in the morning, then becoming partly cloudy. There's a slight chance of showers in the afternoon. Highs of 73 to 83 are predicted with northwest winds 10 mph to 15 mph. A chance of showers remains tonight with northwest winds up to 10 mph.

"Any time you have an established fire, even a little bit of wind can cause a problem, especially if it's gusty," Pemberton said. "Basically, winds are coming off the Sierra, and when they hit Washoe Valley, they tend to swirl and become erratic. That just spreads the fire in different directions."

As for rain, "We love the rain, but we don't like the wind that comes before it," Pemberton said. "It can (worsen) the situation initially because of the winds that come before the rain. You don't always get the rain directly over the fire. You sometimes get just the wind."


o Nevada Humane Society: 331-5770.

o The Nevada State Prison can take up to 10 dogs.

o A-Plus Animal Hospital: 852-4300.

o Washoe Valley Ranch: 849-3232.

o Bonde Lane Animal Hospital: 851-3151.

o The Sierra Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross is not accepting pets but has details on where pets can be taken. Call (775) 856-1000.

Compiled by David Jacobs of the RGJ staff from interviews, News 4 and the National Weather Service.


Tim Dunn/Reno Gazette-Journal

ROUNDUP: A man and a woman lead a runaway horse to safety along Toll Road during Wednesday's Andrew Fire south of Reno.

Liz Margerum/Reno Gazette-Journal

WATCHFUL EYES: People watch the Andrew Fire on Wednesday from Windy Hill in South Reno.

Copyright (c) Reno Gazette-Journal. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.

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