Followup on the Washoe fire: 1 fatality, 29 burned structures

Firefighters have contained the Washoe fire south of Reno, Nevada, thanks to the efforts of firefighters, diminishing winds, and eventually two inches of rain that fell in the area. More accurate surveys and mapping have shown that the final size is 3,177 acres and that 29 structures burned.

An elderly man admitted accidentally starting fire by tossing out fireplace ashes that were still hot. Officials said he contacted them on his own and that he was “remorseful”.

The person that died during the fire has been identified as June Hargis, 93, who was living the studio apartment of her daughter, Jeannie M. Watts. Ms. Watts told the Reno Gazette-Journal that she was getting rehab for a shoulder she injured in an automobile accident when someone told her about a fire that was burning near her house.

Meanwhile, Ms. Watts younger brother, Jim Blueberg, also heard about the fire and tried to drive to his mother’s apartment to help her evacuate, but was turned away at checkpoints. He called her and told her to leave, but she decided to stay. She walked out the front door and told her son that she smelled smoke but didn’t see any fire. What she didn’t know was that the fire was approaching from the back side of the apartment.

Ms. Watts and her husband rushed back home from the rehab center but were stopped at road blocks. Eventually, after explaining about her mother who was in the apartment, they were allowed through but had to detour around areas that were on fire. When they arrived at her house they saw the burned out studio apartment, the burned horse barn, and her home that was starting to burn. She asked a firefighter if her mother made it out of the apartment. He went over and looked and said she did not make it out.

The official cause of death of Ms. Hargis will not be determined until an autopsy is performed, but earlier officials said they believed it to be “smoke inhalation”.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family of Ms. Hargis.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.