Residents of Trout and Lovell canyons breathed a sigh of relief Sunday as they returned home after being evacuated more than a week ago.
Mount Charleston residents, including those in Trout, Lee and Kyle canyons, were evacuated on July 4 after the Carpenter 1 Fire, which was sparked by a lightning strike on July 1, began to threaten their neighborhoods.
Officials announced Sunday that residents and workers in Lee Canyon will be allowed to return at 10 a.m. today , while those in Kyle Canyon can return at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
“I expect it to be an Oklahoma land rush,” said Kyle Canyon resident Doug Martz on what it will be like going home on Wednesday.
Crowds at the public meeting at the Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area visitor’s center erupted in applause when officials announced a definite return date.
“Our mountain is so important to all of us,” Clark County Commissioner Susan Brager said. “Kids were really happy knowing that they could go back to their own homes.”
The comfort of going home was short-lived for many of the residents in Trout Canyon, though, as they were met with no running water at their residences.
“I can’t stay up there until I haul a lot of water up,” said Flo Provenza, who visited her log cabin in Trout Canyon Sunday morning.
With no running water available for those re-entering Trout Canyon, American Red Cross volunteers were handing out water at the checkpoint for residents. They also provided items for clean up, such as rakes and shovels, and breakfast sandwiches, among other things to those going to their residences.
Provenza, 88, and her husband Peter, 92, purchased property in Trout Canyon more than 30 years ago.
“I’m going to go back up there and stay, but I have to be sure I bring enough water,” Provenza said.
Even though the lack of water put a damper on her return, Provenza lauded the firefighters who fought to protect their neighborhood.
“They did a fantastic job,” she said, adding that she could see burned areas less than 100 feet from her cabin.
The Carpenter 1 Fire was 70 percent contained Sunday evening, according to fire officials.
“Firefighters had another good day out there,” Incident Commander Rich Harvey said. “We’re looking really good.”
The fire has not changed in size since Friday night as it spanned across 27,881 acres, or roughly 43 square miles.
A safety officer said fire personnel have put in about 80,000 hours of work battling the wildfire that sparked from lightning on July 1.
Fire crews have contained most of Carpenter, Lee Spring, Trout and Lovell canyons, as well as areas of Harris Spring and Kyle canyons. The containment area is surrounded by about 60 miles of trenches, mostly dug by shovel.
Fire Information Officer Jon Kohn said firefighters will be able to contain roughly 90 percent of the fire without issue. The other 10 percent sits in the dangerous “goat rock cliffs” near Maize Canyon.
“It is physically unsafe to put firefighters in this area. The risks are too high,” Kohn said. “Many fires we come across cannot be 100 percent contained because of the landscape and fuels.”
According to Kohn, crews plan to let the fire in this area burn itself out. However, they have dug two contingency lines as a backup defense.
“There’s one line at the base of the cliff and another near the structures in case the fire passes the cliff,” he said. “But the chance of that happening is less than remote.”
Those returning to Lee Canyon will pass through a checkpoint staffed by law enforcement on Lee Canyon Road at Mile Marker 12, about six miles west of U.S. Highway 95.
Employees will only be allowed to return if their names have been previously furnished by their employer to the Metropolitan Police Department.
Access to State Route 158 is still prohibited.
Officials warned residents that they might continue to see large plumes of smoke and glimpses of flames, but the fire should not be considered a threat.
“The public has been patient enough. They don’t need to be frightened,” Kohn said. “If there was any reason to be frightened, we wouldn’t let them back in.”
Crews and engines will be stationed 24 hours a day to make residents feel more comfortable, and aircraft will be available to deal with any movement of the fire, according to fire officials.
“It’s freaky for the public, but we have good science and good firefighter experience,” Kohn said. “Any fire in remaining in the area will be a nuisance, not a threat.”
The towers of smoke outside won’t be the only reminder of the fire that ripped through the Spring Mountains.
“Homes will have smoke in them, regardless if windows were open or closed,” incident team member J.W. McCoy said.
Once the fire is handled and Harvey’s Type I team moves out, officials say an incident commander will still manage an organization of engines, aircraft and crews.
“Nobody just picks up and leaves,” Kohn said. “The faces just change.”
The cost to fight the fire is about $14.2 million to date. The Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to reimburse agencies for 75 percent of the eligible firefighting costs.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman toured the incident command post and fire area Saturday.
The trails at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area that closed on Thursday when flames crept near La Madre Mountain were reopened Sunday as well, the incident command team announced.
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