911 call describes controlled burn that may have sparked wildfire | TahoeDailyTribune.com

911 call describes controlled burn that may have sparked wildfire

Kurt Hildebrand
Photo by Jim GrantA residence and an out building burns in Topaz Ranch Estates on Tuesday.

Investigators looking into the cause of the 7,500-acre Topaz Ranch Estates wildfire are zeroing in on a controlled burn reported out of control two days before it allegedly rekindled in high winds on Tuesday afternoon.

A 911 call to Douglas County Dispatch indicated that a homeowner was trying to put out a controlled burn on Sunday morning.

“They’re burning and it’s looking like it’s going out of control,” said Wellington resident Bill Elliott in his 911 call. “This place is dry as a bone, and there are flames I can see above the trees.”

Elliott told a 911 dispatcher that people were trying to put the fire out with a garden hose.

“I don’t know if they realize, we’ve got a whole ton of pinon trees all around here,” he said.

East Fork firefighters responded to the home at 1221 Slate Road at 9:04 a.m., according to the Sierra Front Dispatch Wild Web. The address is the same where the wildfire was reported burning at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Initial reports from the fire indicated that it was caused by a controlled burn that had rekindled.

East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini said Friday there would be no comment on the cause of the fire while the investigation is underway.

“There’s a pending open investigation,” he said. “We have no comment until the investigation is complete. Once it’s done there will be an official comment.”

Firefighters responded to the controlled burn and worked on it, Elliott said in an interview with The Record-Courier on Friday.

“I saw them come in and start moving dirt around it,” he said. “They were working on it with some shovels when we left.” He said he didn’t see the conclusion of the call.

Elliott, who works for the Nevada Division of Emergency Management, learned of the fire two days later while he was at a conference in Iowa.

“Douglas County Emergency Management called one of my coworkers at the conference to help coordinate the resources,” he said. “That’s how I found out. I called my wife and asked ‘where is this fire,’ and she said, ‘next door.'”

Elliott said he didn’t believe it was windy on Sunday morning, but that burning in the present dry conditions was dangerous. He said flames were 15 feet tall when he called in the fire.

“My personal opinion is that we do have legal burning, but there is a time and a place for it,” he said. “Just because you can do a thing, doesn’t mean you should. It’s been so dry that it’s dangerous.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Nevada Fire Marshal, the Bureau of Land Management and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Two homes were destroyed along with 17 outbuildings. The fire so far has cost $2.3 million to fight.

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