Washoe Fire Report: Little New, But Important Lessons

RENO, NV - The Incident Report from the Washoe Fire was released Thursday.

It contained little news, but the details told us more about what happened that day, what the fire fighters faced and what we can all learn from this destructive fire.

Page after page of the report contains the blow-by-blow description of the firefighters' efforts that day as they raced to contain a fast moving fire, jumping from neighborhood to neighborhood.

The story that emerges is one of a series of skirmishes as teams of firefighters were forced to adapt to changing conditions..

"Incident commanders and the field captains and crews in the field had to make snap judgments," says Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez. "Are we going to protect this home that's already fully involved or are we going to protect the neighbor's home and keep it from becoming involved?"

But even as all these fights were continuing, the investigation into the fire was already beginning and moving fast.

Surprisingly, the point of origin and the cause were quickly identified.

A Washoe Valley man, 58 year old Lyle Tauscher told investigators he had placed ashes in a metal trailer next to his home.

Four days later, by his account, the ashes were rekindled by the high winds that day.

He believed the ashes were cold, he said, and he was distraught to learn what had happened.

"Stranger things have happened," says Hernandez. "It's certainly a possibility. Whether that was the wisest thing to do is questionable."

Hernandez says the standard advice is to place ashes in a metal container and thoroughly soak them before disposal.

The fire burned 3,100 acres, destroying 28 homes, causing at least $4 Had a half million dollars in damages.

A 93 year old woman, June Hargis, who lived not far from Tauscher's home, died of smoke inhalation.

The District Attorney's office now has the Incident Report. They will decide if there will be any charges.

Hernandez says the department will continue its analysis, but he says the Washoe and the Caughlin fires are already prompting one change.

Just as the fire department responds to a river rescue by not only dispatching units to the scene, but also others downstream, he says in future wind driven events crews will not only be sent to the fire, they will be staged down wind just in case.


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