The last of the evacuated residents forced from their homes by the Carpenter 1 fire will be allowed to return home today as firefighters have reached 80 percent containment on the more than 27,000-acre wildfire that began earlier this month.
Kyle Canyon residents and business owners will be allowed back into the area at 10 a.m. following a 13-day evacuation as the wildfire moved within a mile of their community.
Fire officials have slowly been re-integrating residents of the affected canyons back into their homes this week as fire conditions have been further contained, making it safe for them to return home.
Trout Canyon residents were allowed back into their community on Sunday and were followed soon after by Lee Canyon residents, who were able to return home on Monday.
The massive wildfire fire began on July 1 after lightning struck a steep-terrain area in Carpenter Canyon. Dry conditions and a fuel source of pinyon-juniper plants allowed the fire to grow to more than 10,000 acres by July 5, and approximately 27,968 acres by July 11.
As of Tuesday, the fire was estimated at 27,881 acres.
While all canyon areas are now reopened to residents, they will remain closed to the general public until Friday.
Though they are allowed back in their homes now, a few of the residents who attended the daily informational meetings on the fire last week voiced their frustrations to fire officials about being kept out of their homes for as long as they had been.
Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Fernandez Leary explained the county had the safety of both residents and firefighters in mind when making their decision as to when to allow people back into the affected areas.
“Well what we did is we looked at a couple of things. Number one there was obviously the safety aspect, making sure everyone is safe and that they could get home without any issues. We’re trying to avoid putting people back in a potentially dangerous situation and have to try and evacuate them again. We don’t want to do that,” he said following a meeting at the Calvada Eye Friday evening.
“We have folks in Lee Canyon that are going back and folks in Kyle Canyon that are going back, and what we’re doing is building this plan, this template, to ensure we dot all of our i’s and cross all of our t’s to make sure it’s safe for them, and we don’t have any screw-ups quite frankly. To put that plan together, we couldn’t access the areas and what-not, so I certainly understand their frustrations, but the county has a liability on their shoulders. And again we don’t want to put citizens or residents in a situation where it’s not the best situation, we want it to be the best that it can be,” he added.
More than 1,000 firefighters were allocated to the blaze last week.
Incident command centers were set up first here in Pahrump at the Bob Ruud Community Center, then at Centennial High School in Las Vegas as the fire moved eastward.
Though the fire grew quickly, fire officials reported there were only six structures lost, one commercial building and five out-buildings at Prospect Ranch, and two injuries as a result of the blaze.
Those injuries were to two firefighters who reportedly injured their ankles as they worked to stop the fire in the steep-terrain areas it inhabited.
While firefighters were battling the blaze on the ground, government officials also got in on the action helping to organize resources and assess damages.
State Sen. Pete Goicoechea and Assemblyman James Oscarson recently toured the Incident Command Post and the fire area.
Both said they were thankful for the great working relationship all of the agencies involved in the incident formed in response to the wildfire.
“Were we involved? Yes. Even down to the level of what cats do you have down on the ground, what helicopters do you have available, what do you need to shift where? We actually talked on a daily basis as far as what resources were available. And we have been very actively engaged and now with the rehab efforts as we move forward. Again, I just can’t say how much I appreciate the resources, the communities coming together and how they pulled together and with that we had no loss of life and very little actual property damage,” Goicoechea said. “That’s the advantage when you move to a Type 1 team like Rich Harvey, you know, then all the bureaucracies meld together and one person is the boss.”
Oscarson echoed that sentiment.
“I, like the senator can’t say enough about the integration from Pahrump Valley Fire Rescue to the Town opening up their services to the county, Vance Payne from emergency services being involved. All these folks integrated almost seamlessly to make sure this process happened and no one could where one group was versus another, it was a very cohesive effort,” he added.
The senator and assemblyman both said they tried to work with fire officials to get them what they needed, but stayed out of the way allowing them to do their job.
As the fire comes under further containment, a team has already been put in place to begin restoration operations on the areas affected by the flames.
“And I think the other thing you need to be aware of is there is currently a group put together by the county to work on mitigation and make sure flooding doesn’t occur on the rehab efforts. There is a process in place, it’s called the BAER Team, Burned Area Emergency Response Team, and you can read about that on the Forest Service’s website,” Oscarson said.
Though the fire continues to burn, firefighters will continue working to mop up the fire’s edges and secure the fire line south of Highway 157 and east of Rainbow where the fire is still active. While the flames are backing down, fire officials note it make take several more days before it is fully secured.
A fire far above the Cathedral Rock area also reportedly continues to burn, and will continue to do so until it is rained out or runs out of fuel as it is too steep for safe access.
Now that the fire is mostly contained and residents are on their way home, the Red Cross evacuation center at Hafen Elementary School has closed.
The James Bilbray Elementary School shelter, however, remains open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
For more information on the fire visit inciweb.org or call the fire information line at 702- 799-4610.