Once again getting back to "normal"

Not long ago I wrote that things were getting settled down and back to normal. I'm now a bit more leery of saying such things, afraid to tempt fate and all. Of course not holding any belief in fate immediately takes this story down a strange course.

Wednesday evening we had dinner with family and then dallied to pursue the latest offerings at Borders bookstore. In the middle of looking at the latest books on CD the phone rang. A fellow Sandy Valley-an was calling to ask what I knew about the fire. Nothing. We wrapped up our browsing and headed for home. Along the way we passed through the valley north of Jean where Goodsprings sits. In the black of night the valley floor looked more like a cooling lava flow. Red embers formed long veins criss-crossing the valley. Turning to Sandy Valley road and heading towards Columbia Pass things looked bleak. The hillsides to the north of the road were red masses of magma. Across the pass, however, the fires were held at bay by a ridge of mountains that protected the road.

Entering the valley the first signs did not bring any encouragement. The yard lights and windows that normally double as beacons for the neighborhood failed to shine the way home. Through the evening the wind continued to drive from the direction of the fires towards Sandy Valley. Spot fires came within a couple of miles of town but never finished their journey down the hill. Nevada Power, the electric company supplying the southern part of Sandy Valley, estimates that 100-150 power poles were burned overnight on Wednesday. By late Thursday the utility company was operating each of the affected communities from generators.

Massive pile-up

Experts have been able to put some numbers to what residents of Southern Nevada already knew. Heavy winter rains contributed to a substantial increase in the amount of fuel for fires. Much of the increase comes in the form of highly-flamable grasses and light brush. The normal load of 200 pounds to 400 pounds of vegetation per acre has increased this year to 1.5 tons of vegetation per acre. Nevada has seen a corresponding increase in the number of acres burned. From 2,500 acres in 2004, and 10,000 acres in 2004 for the same time 2005 has seen in excess of 45,000 acres burned.