Monday, July 14, 2014

The Waterfall Fire Ten Years Later

Posted Monday, July 14, 2014 at 3:27 PM

Ten years ago today, July 14, 2004, one of the worst wildfires in Carson City’s recent memory began. A rogue campfire in the hills above the Kings Canyon waterfall sparked a blaze that swept through the mountains west of town. It came roaring down Kings Canyon first, destroying 9 homes before firefighters could push it back. Then it turned north and steamrolled through the Timberline neighborhood, burning another 8 houses. Firefighters stopped it before it could reach Lakeview and any lower into the valleys, but it still burned in the mountains for days. In all, 8,700 acres burned and 18 homes were lost, and the hills were scarred black for months afterward.

I took photos during and after the fire, and this year I went back and revisited some of those views to see how much healing has been done in the last 10 years. This view from Curry Street shows the fire before and after it swept through the hills here, blackening everything. Nowadays, the vegetation has completely recovered.

The furthest south the flames reached was Clearview. Back then, Curry was an out of the way road so the fire didn’t threaten much. Now the Galaxy Theaters sits right next to where the flames were turned back by a fire break. The fire break, and the scar from the flames, can still be seen.

The entire hillside along Curry was blackened.

Hardly any buildings were lost along Curry. This shop was one. It was rebuilt just a few months later and now houses The Wheel House.

The smoke plume started out small, but by midday downtown was coated in a thick blanket of smoke. Nobody quite knew how bad this fire was going to be, and the sun being blotted out didn’t help any. Carson Middle School was I believe the evacuation point for many of the people who were driven out of their homes by the fire. Most of them were lucky enough to be able to go back, a few weren’t.

The sides of C Hill burned so intensely that it looked like a moonscape.

Yet, the firefighters still were able to save the houses next to the hill. This photo was taken two weeks after the fire. The trees on the left didn’t even get scorched. Not one house on C Hill burned down.

On the back side of C Hill, and up Kings Canyon, is where the flames were most intense.

The morning of the 14th, firefighters were quickly overwhelmed by the ferocity of the fire, fueled by dry brush and strong winds.

This entire hillside was burned to ash, but nature has regrown nicely. A couple of burnt twigs still remain.

The houses at the top of Kings Canyon were hit worst by the fire. Some of them were lost completely, but firefighters were able to have a few victories and save some of them.

The parking lot at the top of Kings Canyon was a major staging area to try to keep the fire away from populated areas, but by the time it got here it was too intense.

The fire burned fast and hot, leaving the tops of the trees undamaged. Here at the trailhead to the infamous waterfall, nearly every tree had to be removed later, but a few did survive.

Ted Stokes’ home, the highest one on the hill, was one of the first to be lost. Rebuilding started the summer after the fire. But what was once a nice wooded lot is now just sagebrush.

Enough time has passed that there are probably a lot of newcomers who weren’t around for the fire. But for those of us who were in town then, we remember the savagery and power of this fire. With a couple of dry winters in a row, conditions are bad up in the hills again this year. We all need to be careful and make sure there’s never a repeat of the Waterfall Fire. It would be nice to be able to call it the “last” bad wildfire for a long time.

Tags:

Permalink | Shortlink | Comments (8)


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Carson City Freeway Construction

Posted Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 3:24 PM

This weekend the new bridge over the Carson City Freeway opened at Snyder. It was 16 months ago, March of 2013, that the road was closed to begin work on this bridge.

This is the last bridge that needs to be built along the freeway route. Well, that’s not quite true. There’s still an overpass in the works for where Hwy 50 coming down Spooner Grade meets 395. But NDOT has decided to push that project back and not let it hold up the opening of the freeway.

So now that all the bridges along Phase 3 are finished, the next job is to put down the road. But, as is usual for this project, that’s going to have to wait. They won’t start on that until next summer at least, or whenever they have the money to finish it.

So we’re still a long ways away from having a completed freeway through Carson City. But we’re officially one step closer today, and everyone who drives Snyder Avenue is doing a happy dance because they don’t have to detour anymore.

Tags:

Permalink | Shortlink | Comments (6)


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Governor Jones House

Posted Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 7:26 PM

The old Governor Jones House, at 603 W Robinson (Robinson and Phillips) is being renovated.

This house has had an overgrown yard and faded paint for as long as I can remember. There always used to be an entire barnyard worth of animals in the front yard; cats, chickens, rabbits, ducks, and who knows what else. And it always used to look awesome at Halloween.

But this dilapidated charm was disguising some serious problems. The house has needed a major remodel for a while now, and it looks like it is finally getting one.

This house, like most in this part of town, does have some history. It was the governor’s mansion during the years 1895-1896. Back then there was no official governor’s residence, so each governor would have to work out of his own house. When Governor Jones took office in 1895, this house became the Governor’s Mansion. It wasn’t for long, though, since Governor Jones died in office just the next year.

The renovation has started in the yard, clearing out all the brush and trash that gave the house much of its character. On one hand it’s sad to see the greenery go, but on the other hand it possibly shows that the new owners are dedicated to returning this house to elegance. It should be exciting to watch the transformation that this house is about to go through.

Tags:

Permalink | Shortlink | Comments (3)


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Carson City Freeway Construction

Posted Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 7:11 PM

It’s been over a year since construction on the south leg of the Carson City Freeway started, and several months since work on the bridge hit the point of not having much visible progress. Recently they hit a big milestone, though, and we’re back to having lots of exciting progress on the freeway.

The biggest news is that the bridge deck is finished, and they’ve been digging out the dirt from under it. NDoT figured out the best way to build a bridge is to pile up dirt, build the bridge on top of the dirt, then dig the dirt back out again. They’ve hit the third phase of that plan, digging it out. Heavy equipment has been removing dirt from under the bridge daily, and the bridge is actually starting to look like a bridge for the first time ever.

Also the forms have come down from the bridge, so we can see the decorative artwork that has been shaped into the concrete. Since this road leads to the Stewart Indian Colony, they went with a Washo motif here. The street name, which is also engraved on every other freeway bridge in town, is here inscribed in two languages, English (Synder Avenue) and Washo (Ušeweʔ Wat’a).

With the bridge done, attention can now shift to the approaches to the bridge.

Curbs and sidewalks are being poured on the embankments.

The bridge pillars, which have been buried underground for a year, are now seeing sunlight again, and are finally doing their job of supporting the bridge’s weight.

The hard part of the job done, reopening Snyder is now just a matter of some plain old fashioned road construction.

Since the frontage road next to Carson Street is now closed permanently, it had to be gracefully closed off at each end. At the north end, they put in a dead-end cul de sac. At the south end, seen here, the road curves to meet up with Arthur Drive.

According to the Nevada Appeal, the Snyder overpass will be finished and open in June. The Carson Street overpass is being pushed to a Phase 4 project, so that’s not going to be worked on for years. The freeway instead will open with just a stoplight where it meets Carson Street. So now all that remains to be done is grading and paving the freeway roadbed from Fairview to Carson Street, a couple-mile stretch that will cost about $42 million. They’re hoping to start on that project next summer and open the freeway in Fall 2016, but that’s only if their federal funding doesn’t dry up. 2016 would be 10 years after Phase 1 of the freeway opened, and about 60 years after a bypass freeway was first conceived.

Tags:

Permalink | Shortlink | Comments (6)


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Plaza 50 Remodel

Posted Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Among the oldest supermarket buildings in town is the old Warehouse Market/Scolari’s/Sak N Save building on Highway 50. Part of the Plaza 50 shopping center, this building was a supermarket from the 1970s up until 2010, when its last incarnation closed. Ever since then it has remained shuttered. I did a Ghosts of Carson article on it a couple of years ago.

So it was a nice surprise a while back to see a chain link fence go up around the building, getting ready for some major construction.

A sign said “99¢ Only Store Coming Soon”. It was unclear where the store was going exactly, but once construction started word came out that it was taking over part of the old Scolari’s building.

Heavy equipment was brought in and starting tearing down the front wall and roof.

It’s not a complete teardown of the old Scolari’s, but it is a significant reduction in square footage. The supermarket used to jut out into the parking lot from the rest of the shopping center. That whole front section has been demolished. Now the building is flush with the rest of the center. Presumably more work is coming to build a whole new facade for the 99¢ store. This remodel actually frees up a lot more parking in front of the store. Not that parking ever was a problem in this shopping center, but if the new store brings in a lot of customers, it will be good to have extra parking right out front.

Tags:

Permalink | Shortlink | Comments (4)