Tamarack Fire 2nd largest in Douglas County history

Kurt Hildebrand
Record Courier
Topaz Ranch Estates resident John Flaherty took this photo from the top of Gold Hill as the Tamarack Fire burned across Highway 395. He said the fire came to within a half-mile of his home.

Just the part of the Tamarack Fire that burned in Douglas County made it the second largest fire in the county’s history.

East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini estimated the fire burned 14,000-15,000 acres in Douglas alone, which exceeds the size of the 1984 Indian Creek Fire, which burned 12,400 acres in the county.

“That fire was an angry fire,” Carlini said. “We saw fire behavior that I haven’t see in a long time and I’ve been doing this quite a while.”

As of Monday morning, the fire had burned 68,696 acres and was 80% contained. Full containment is expected by the end of the month. The number of firefighters working the blaze has decreased to 407.

Carlini told Douglas County commissioners on Thursday that 10 primary structures were lost to the blaze, that blackened a 14th of the combined area of Alpine and Douglas counties.

He said that key to battling the fire was keeping it as one incident between the two states, which allowed resources that fought the fire in California to shift to Nevada when it crossed the border.

“It made a tremendous difference when that fire finally decided to cross the state line and come into Nevada, and it did so with a vengeance,” Carlini said.

Firefighters were able to defend several structures and neighborhoods in the Spring Valley and Holbrook neighborhoods.

“We don’t like to lose homes,” he said. We take it personally. Those folks suffered a loss. It’s hard making those calls, though the majority of them already knew. I was surprised at the resiliency those folks showed.”

Sheriff Dan Coverley said fire officials warned him early on to be prepared for evacuations.

“The incident command reached out and said this fire is going and they’re not stopping it,” he said. “They weren’t able to fight it directly and were worried that it would cross Highway 88 and wrap around Fredericksburg Road to Foothill.”

Coverley said that if it seemed like his office was conducting notifications early on in the fire, that was intentional.

He said a presentation by the Butte County Sheriff on the Camp Fire encouraged officials to alert residents earlier than later.

“We wanted people to be aware and have a plan should they need to evacuate their homes,” he said. “The fire didn’t jump Highway 88, due to some massive efforts by firefighters.”

He said help from Douglas County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue and the Mounted Posse helped free up deputies during the fire.

“I can’t thank them enough,” he said. “The fire moved faster than we thought.”

He said he felt the Highway 395 reopened as quickly as it could.

“Once these folks got in place, they did the very best and minimized the amount of damage,” he said of the Type I Rocky Mountain fire management team.

Commissioner Mark Gardner, a Topaz Ranch Estates resident who represents the district, said he hoped the county could help waive building fees for the residents whose homes were damaged and destroyed.

Nevada law allows owners of primary residences destroyed in a declared emergency to apply for an exemption of a portion of the assessed value of a home.

Nevada Revised Statutes 361.084 indicates that the exemption applies for up to three years as owners rebuild.

For more information, visit

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.