The last flames of the Waterfall Fire in Carson City have been out for nearly two months now, but work in the burn area is just beginning.
The city is facing a long, expensive recovery period in a critical watershed area.
When the flames were burning fast and hot, the Waterfall Fire posed a immediate threat to homes and people.
But in the months and years ahead it will continue to pose a different sort of threat. The fire left much of the city's watershed scorched. There are tons of ash lying on these hillsides and little left in the way vegetation to help hold it in the event of heavy rainfall or snow melt. It adds up to a long-term , ever-present danger of floods or mudslides and a constant threat to the city's water supply. Seventy to 80 percent of the city's surface water supply comes from these slopes and the fire has left that supply very vulnerable
We're going to stailise the soils as much as we can to avoid losing more, says public works official Tom Hoffert.
That means there's a lot of work to be done. Today city officials toured the area to once again see first hand, the damage, what's being done and what will need to be done. Many of the hillsides are already protected by straw wattles and log erosion barriers. The city has already spent $100,000 here. More will be needed. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has pledged more than $2 and a half million, but 25 percent of the cost will have to come from the city. The meter has barely begun to tick. Still ahead, reseeding efforts....and a long nervous watch on the winter ahead.
According to Hoffert, if it comes slow with drying periods in between we won't lose as much soil and seed, but if we get a big rainfall we'll get a lot of erosion and some of our measures will be washed away in those events.