Kyle Canyon resident Bob Meranto is built like a linebacker and looks like a tough guy. But when it comes to describing the help Mount Charleston residents received during the Carpenter 1 Fire, the longtime cement subcontractor is just an old softy.
“The support is incredible,” Meranto says. “There are people that call me that I know work-wise that check on me. And then you get all the hotels that are kicking in. You know, everyone thinks that the hotels can afford it, or someone else can afford it. Everyone’s making a living. But it’s not like everyone has extra money, you know what I mean? Everyone’s like we are. The generosity is incredible.”
Meranto’s family has had property on the mountain since the mid-1970s. When his youngest daughter went off to college a few years ago, Bob and wife Pam moved from the valley up to Kyle Canyon’s pine and aspen and small-town atmosphere. His mother, Rose Meranto, lives down the street.
When the mountain residents were suddenly displaced, it seemed like all of Southern Nevada became one small town. It didn’t go unnoticed by Mount Charleston’s locals.
“The support of the town is really something,” he says. “I am overwhelmed by it, to be honest with you.”
Clark County Commissioner Susan Brager, a fourth-generation Nevadan, calls that compassion one of the community’s best-kept secrets.
“When you have to send out messages that say, ‘Please don’t bring any more,’ that’s something remarkable,” Brager says. “I think other people see us so many times as only the Las Vegas Strip. But we are real, live, caring human beings.
“ A lot of people that have been born here, when something happens to one, it happens to all of us. And I think we’ve seen that this time. Something happens to what we consider a small community, and you see the warmth, the caring, the goodness. It was incredible. It’s so good to see that we do always come together. People might say something about us, but we’re there to support and defend our community.”
Local hotels, businesses and individuals donated everything from rooms to pizzas to kennel services and even portable toilets. The outpouring of support was channeled through the local chapter of the American Red Cross, where Jennifer Ramieh served as incident command liaison during the fire.
Mountain residents were stunned by the evacuation, but their spirits were buoyed by what happened next.
“That (an evacuation) can be a very emotional and traumatic time, and that’s why we’re here,” Ramieh says. “ The outpouring of this community’s support has been overwhelming. And I’ve seen it not just with this event. I’ve seen it when it doesn’t even affect our community. Whether it was Haiti or Hurricane Sandy or an Oklahoma tornado, the community is incredibly generous when it comes to helping people in their time of need.”
I couldn’t agree more.
During a recent visit to the Red Cross outpost at Bilbray Elementary School, I saw volunteers entertaining the children of evacuated families. Other volunteers in their red vests were ready to load relief supplies ranging from toiletries and bottled water to toys and books.
Like many locals, I’ve often heard the dissonant strains of criticism about Southern Nevada’s troubled soul. And we do have our challenges. You don’t have to search far to find outsiders and some residents who whine and moan about our supposed lack of community.
But when the smoke of their cynicism clears, the genuine generosity of Southern Nevada’s incredibly diverse population shines through. Despite a tough economy and high unemployment, a parade of people stepped up to lend a hand.
The outpouring of support during the Carpenter 1 Fire is one more reminder of how this very real community responds to its neighbors in need.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.