Steamboat Residents Concerned About Fire Safety

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Mickey McCann admits she was scared when she saw flames roaring through this draw last Thursday, headed for her home.

"It was scary," McCann says. "I saw smoke and I called 9-1-1 and they didn't answer. I gave up and went outside, and I turned the hose on and started watering everything down."

Scared but not surprised. Like other Steamboat residents here, she's looked out her backyard for years and seen a landscape loaded with fuel. Cheat grass and tumble mustard waist high in some places, tinder-dry and thick, just waiting for a spark.

It is believed kids playing with fireworks set the fire off on August 31st. Quick action by firemen stopped it at just an acre or so, but fire officials say that hardly describes its potential. Reno Fire Battalion Chief Rik Kayans says the fire came too close to destroying property here.

"This fire was surrounded by homes on 3 sides," Kayans says. "It had a lot of potential to get into people's homes."

Residents credit quick action by the firefighters with limiting damage to backyard decks, fences and landscaping.

It's not as if residents here didn't see the danger or that they didn't ask for help. They did and say they got very little. Residents say this is county property, once slated for a possible park and sitting empty all these years, is now a fire hazard.

"Residents have flammables right up to the property line and they need to clear that to give us an opportunity to protect their homes," Kayans explains.

Mickey McCann keeps the property next to hers mowed, but Shirley Kaesbauer who heads the property owners association says many of the other residents, retired and on fixed incomes, are physically and economically unable to do the same. So, in recent years, she says the association has asked five different county agencies for help. They were told they'd have to do it themselves.

"They gave us no help to do it," Kaesbauer says. "No money or anything. I think its their responsibility to clean and help us with fire protection."

One possible source of help is the Nevada Fire Safe Council. It's helped other Northern Nevada neighborhoods with fuel reduction projects in recent years. The Homeowners Association at Steamboat could be taking another look at that option.