Caughlin Fire: More Than A Year Later, Still Teaching Lessons

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It started with high winds whipping power lines in the open landscape on the hillside above west Reno.

Before the Caughlin Fire was over it would spread into the suburbs, destroying 28 homes, damaging 15 others.

It was in the middle of the night and burning months after our traditional fire season had ended.

In a word it was something new and very challenging.

"We had winds in excess of 65 miles an hour, " says Chief Mike Brown of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District. "It was coming from all directions. With that, we had spotting potential of one mile ahead."

Thursday the events of that November 2011 early morning were unfolding once again in a training exercise at a conference at the Peppermill.

This time the drama was being played out on a high tech sand table, but real decisions were being demanded of those in attendance, firefighters from as far away as Canada and Australia.

It was done with role playing, the pressure kept as realistic as possible from deploying equipment and crews to handling pushy reporters.

The goal was a realistic taste of the challenges firefighters faced that day.

Brown, who served as incident commander in 2011 says the real thing was a pressure cooker.

"Evacuation. Trying to get response of equipment into the scene, but also getting people and equipment out of the scene. We had a lot agencies participating. Everything from fire departments, law enforcement, utilities. Everybody had to try to get in there to do what we were trying to achieve, suppressing this incident.