ELKO — Rebuild. Rehabilitate. Restore.
These words of hope and determination are rising from the ashes of a scorching 2018 wildfire season.
A review of the year’s most memorable blazes helps explain what motivates northeastern Nevadans to restore the landscapes they call home.
Starting in June, Northeastern Nevada witnessed 138 fires burn more than 660,240 acres — a combined area more than seven times the size of Las Vegas.
Fast-moving flames harmed flora and fauna over large swaths of private, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land, leaving an ashen trail in its wake and a haze in the sky.
Nevadans watched and fought as fires burned through days and nights, threatening or destroying structures, and smothering precious grazing and recreational land. Firefighting crews from beyond state lines joined locals in making fire suppression in northeastern Nevada a priority in the Great Basin region.
Measuring the biggest was the Martin Fire. The blaze started July 4 by an undetermined but unnatural cause then swallowed up more than 686 square miles in Humboldt and Elko counties, including the entire grazing allotment of Nevada’s oldest ranch. The Martin Fire was the largest in state history.
The Range Two Fire ranked as the highest profile fire, burning more than 9,000 acres of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest land — including part of beautiful Lamoille Canyon. A spark from a bullet hitting a rock near a shooting range at the base of the Ruby Mountains likely started the fire Sept. 30, according to the state fire marshal’s recently released report. The canyon remained closed to the public for the entire month of November but partially reopened in December.
Lightning ignited the South Sugarloaf Fire on Aug. 17 and burned 200,000-plus acres north of Elko. The fire caused the evacuation of about 300 people, scorched the shores of Wildhorse Reservoir and damaged the steep canyon walls around State Route 225. The South Sugarloaf Fire prompted the unprecedented closure of more than 700,000 acres for public safety reasons, according to the U.S. Forest Service, and encroached upon the community of Jarbidge.
Other notable fires included the 1,000-acre Owl Creek Fire, also near the Rubies; the more than 5,000-acre Owyhee Fire on the Duck Valley Shoshone-Paiute Reservation; the Gance Fire near the Jerritt Canyon Mine; the Goshute Cave, Sheep Creek, Goose Creek and Dixie fires; fires near Deeth; and many more.
Priming the terrain for fire were factors such as an abundance of grass and other vegetation brought up in wet times and left to dry in drought. The BLM reported areas with fuel loads measuring 200 to 300 percent more than average, based on pounds per acre.
Humans caused 57 percent of the fires — by using equipment, firing incendiary devices, having illegal fires and other causes. Lightning accompanying a mostly dry monsoon season set off many of the rest.
The fires displayed unusual behaviors, including burning areas that have not been touched by flame in recent memory, climbing to high elevations, marching through fire retardant and not lying down at night.
Tempers flared, too, as some people pointed to a changing climate as the culprit for extreme fire seasons while others blamed changes in land management practices. Land closures and hunting restrictions for public safety, and questions about firefighting practices also incited the public.
Yet now that the heat of the season has passed, another emotion has been ignited: hope.
Parts of the secluded Lions Camp in Lamoille Canyon were charred in the Range Two Fire, but plans to revive the camp have rallied the community and forged partnerships. Plans to restore the Lions camp and canyon are representative of an overall motivation to bring back what was lost.
“From the ashes, we will rebuild Camp Lamoille,” the club states on its website and on Facebook, along with the hastag #FromTheAshesCampLamoille.
Camp Dat-So-La-Lee, named after a renowned basket maker and member of the Washoe Indian Tribe, is the primary project of the Lions’ District 46, serving the Elko area. The Lions camp was established in 1990 and has been host to many scout programs for children, weddings and other events over the years.
Memories are all that remain of some areas of the camp, which included eight A-frame cabins, a main dining hall with kitchen in the main lodge, restrooms and showers, and camping spaces. The fire rushed down the bowl-like sides of the mountains that hug the camp, burning the lodge down to its foundation, along with some A-frames and campsites.
“The community has stepped up so enthusiastically,” said Paul Gardner with the Lions Club. “So many people are offering to do work or donate things.”
Restoration is planned in three phases and is estimated to cost about $1 million total.
“It’s a big project, and it’s in three phases because it’s all volunteers,” Gardner said.
Phase one features cleanup of debris and rubble, then rebuilding electrical and water infrastructure. Club members plan for phase one to be completed in midsummer 2019 for an estimated cost of $175,000. Cleanup work has already begun.
“The Forest Service has been absolutely wonderful to work with,” Gardner said. “We are partners moving together to restore. So many people have been working together.”
Building a new pavilion is the focus of phase two, estimated at $225,000. The open-frame facility will be constructed on the foundation of the old lodge, using the still-standing stone fireplace as a focal point and including an outdoor kitchen.
“We wanted to be true to its history, and so the fireplace that was at one end of the lodge will be the centerpiece of the new building,” Gardner said.
Three A-frames will also be replaced with three prefabricated cabins, a parking lot constructed and eight RV spots added during this phase, expected to be finished late summer 2019.
The final phase is building a new lodge because, as Gardner said, “We can’t really rebuild it the way that it was.”
The 60-by-42-foot, single-story lodge will be a little bigger than the previous structure, have restrooms and comply with guidelines outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new lodge will be made of fire-resistant materials.
Although the club doesn’t have a firm estimate on the cost of building a new lodge, the rough figure is $600,000. The timeline is contingent on funding but could be completed as early as 2020.
“We have a million dollar budget [requirement] for this project, but that number keeps coming down as people continue to donate and pledge support,” Gardner said.
The Lions Club is accepting donations through a Lions Club Camp Lamoille account at Elko Federal Credit Union; the Camp Lamoille Recovery Fund, a partnership with the Community Foundation of Elko via nevadafund.org; and GoFundMe on Facebook.
As of Dec. 19, the club had collected $117,131 including cash donations, various fundraisers and corporate donations. The total does not count pledges or in-kind donations.
Forest Service, other agency and volunteer crews have been at work to aid restoration of the canyon and other burned areas.
“Right now, we are actively replacing guardrail with the intent to get the road reopened as soon as possible,” said District Ranger Josh Nicholes in mid-December. “It’s a very important place to a lot of people, and we acknowledge that, and we are actively working on it until snow pushes us out or we get done, whichever happens first.”
Existing guardrails are being reused where possible and the Nevada Department of Transportation provided posts, Nicholes said. Barriers will be placed inside the road to help stop rocks that might fall to help expedite opening the road, which had been closed due to fire damage.
“For me it just stresses the partnerships in the community outreach because we wouldn’t have been able to get as much done as we have working with the community in with all the other agencies and nongovernment organizations,” Nicholes said.
The ranger district opened more of the canyon road on Dec. 22. Drivers can now access “Climber’s Rock” and hikers can explore beyond that point on foot, the Forest Service announced in a press release. Snowmobilers will be allowed when there is enough snow.
One private cabin and some out buildings in Lamoille Canyon burned, and the Forest Service is working with the owners to rebuild. Smoke damaged other structures.
“We’re working with them on how they want to proceed as far as a rebuild,” Nicholes said.
Other efforts to rehabilitate Lamoille Canyon include mitigating debris flow, replacing or repairing culverts, chainsaw work, removing hazardous trees, rebuilding retaining walls at the Lamoille Talbot Trail, and reseeding.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife and Nevada Division of Forestry are partnering with the Forest Service to reseed the Range Two burn area aerially, Nicholes said.
Volunteers and stewardship groups also have helped reseed through two events in November and December, distributing mountain mahogany seeds and gathering sagebrush seedlings.
Similar restoration efforts apply to many of the burn areas in Northern Nevada and pertain to Forest Service, BLM and beyond.
“I want to stress that it is an interagency program, so we don’t have BLM fires, and we don’t have Forest Service fires,” Nicholes said. “We have an interagency program that includes Forest Service, BLM, [Bureau of Indian Affairs], NDF and the county. We all work together.”
Priorities include reseeding, controlling noxious and invasive weeds, preventing fire retardant from entering streams, constructing beaver dams, repairing dozer lines, fixing fences and planting trees.
“It’s going to take time and change from what it looked like prior,” said Jeff Liday, zone fire management officer for the Forest Service. “It’s going to come back.”
The land and ecosystem — and the people — of Northern Nevada are resilient, and will rebuild, rehabilitate and restore.
ELKO — Three new members could join the Elko County Enhanced 911 Board in January.
Sgt. Jim Carpenter of the Elko County Sheriff’s Department, City of Elko Fire Marshal John Holmes and the future West Wendover police chief will be recommended for the vacancies at the Jan. 7 Elko County Board of Commissioners meeting.
Carpenter is expected to assume the role of Elko County undersheriff under the leadership of Sheriff-elect Aitor Narvaiza. If approved by the commissioners, he will fill the vacancy left by recently retired Undersheriff Ron Supp.
“He would be a great candidate for this position,” Narvaiza told the Enhanced 911 board Dec. 20.
Holmes serves as the city fire marshal and is the director of the central dispatch board of directors. He was one of two candidates who applied to replace Bill Hance, who has been elected to serve on the Elko City Council.
David Sexton, criminal justice instructor at Great Basin College, also applied for the at-large position.
Emergency Services Manager Annette Kerr and City of Elko Fire Chief Matt Griego expressed their support for Holmes.
Ben Reed, board chair and Elko’s police chief, said both candidates were well-qualified to serve but preferred Holmes partly because of his knowledge of all variety of dispatch equipment.
The third representative will be the soon-to-be hired police chief of West Wendover. He will replace former Burdel Welsh and be named in January. The city’s interim police chief and city manager agreed that a duty of the incoming chief will be to serve on the Enhanced 911 board.
“We’re very interested to make sure we have some kind of representation from the West Wendover area,” Reed said.
The next Enhanced 911 Board meeting is slated for Jan. 31. The Elko County Board of Commissioners meets Jan. 7, which is also the day that newly elected county officials will be sworn into office.
ELKO – A pre-Christmas shopping spree at Walmart turned into a police pursuit and grand larceny charges for two local women.
An Elko Police Department officer was called to the store Dec. 23 on a report of two women “stealing cartloads of merchandise.”
As the officer arrived, he was told the women were running across the street. He saw them running up the hill near Verizon Wireless, and ordered them to halt but they didn’t.
Tessa R. Patchett, 27, of Spring Creek and Monique R. Valdez, 22, of Elko were located at Noddle Lane and Argent Avenue sometime after 10 p.m., where they were arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit grand larceny.
The women allegedly filled shopping carts with a large number of items, including Christmas stockings, and attempted to leave through the pharmacy-side exit but it was locked for the night.
Walmart employees rang up the merchandise in the carts and it totaled $2,808.
Bail for the larceny charges was listed at $20,000 each, plus another $5,000 for Patchett for felony possession of a controlled substance.