Callahan Wildfire Evacuation

This is a guest post by Tom Daly.

When a wind-driven wildfire bears down on your neighborhood, you may only have a few minutes to safely evacuate. Wildfires over the last several years have often blocked the normal vehicular route residents use every day or may find those routes clogged with much more than routine traffic.

So, having a secondary evacuation route should be part of your planning. In the Mt. Rose corridor, housing developments were often planned and approved without those secondary routes or are constrained by closed and locked gates, which complicates the evacuation process.

More recently, the planned Ascente development south of Mt. Rose Highway and east of Callahan Road now owned by Toll Brothers, has exacerbated the problem by blocking the formerly unobstructed secondary access route for both the Fawn Lane neighborhood and the adjacent Callahan Ranch neighborhood. The Brushwood Way (Callahan Ranch) to Fawn Lane connection was blocked by Toll Brothers in July with boulders on the Brushwood Way end.

On Wednesday 7/20/2022 Assistant County Manager Solaro advised me than within two weeks those boulders on Brushwood Way would be replaced by a gate, openable in an emergency, to allow those residents to have their second evacuation route restored. What has happened since? No gate at Brushwood Way as of August 10th.

A second barrier, a temporary fence and gate, chained and padlocked, was later installed at the end of the paved portion of Fawn Lane. Now two barriers to escape for Fawn Lane and Callahan Ranch residents exist.

In a further conversation on Thursday 7.28.2022 with Assistant County Manager Dave Solaro, he advised me that those current and future gates will only be openable by the developer (Toll Bros staff), the Sheriff and his CERT group or TMFPD units. Good luck with that happening in the middle of the night with a wind-driven wildfire roaring down the mountain into those neighborhoods.

At my meeting on August 9th with County Manager Brown, he committed his Emergency Manager to bring forward a solution to this problem in the near term. Manager Brown also indicated that TMFPD Chief Moore is also working this problem. Let’s hope those solutions are implemented before the next wildfire.

Developers’ interests once again trump public safety.

Thomas Daly is a resident of Washoe County and his community is adjacent to the Ascente development.

8 thoughts on “Callahan Wildfire Evacuation

  1. Thank you Thomas Daly.
    Could a combination lock with correct combination be accessible (via the sheriff, HOA,fire chief?) to a resident in an emergency?

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  2. In the case of an emergency wildfire the only other option if those gates are not opened is crash through them with a truck and the will be repaired at the Toll Brothers expense. With the possibility of the loss of life in a wildfire a gate will not stop anyone. Just saying that would be the only other option in an emergency. So if they do not want to make that gate something that can be opened quickly in an emergency they will suffer the consequences of their actions.

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  3. Thank you for your efforts, Tom! I know it seems like a futile battle but we MUST persevere, otherwise the consequences could literally be fatal. Many of us will remember previous debacles with locked gates during neighborhood fire emergencies (The October 13, 2017 Washoe Valley Fire comes to mind for me). Seems like there’s one every 4 or 5 years. And with more people living in the Mt. Rose area than ever before, the odds of a human-caused brushfire are now quite high. Please be vigilant, Callahan and Fawn Lane neighbors. The Ascente property presents more than just fire escape hazards…..

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  4. Yes Tom and Kris, thankyou for your efforts.
    I have voiced my opinion on Nextdoor addressing exactly this problem with a few remarks in return about ”private landowners can do what they want with their land”. Their remarks just prove to me that there is a lack of concern or planning by the developer and county commissioners/ planners for any existing residential neighborhood safety on the East side of Callahan or plan for alternate evacuation route in case of wildfire and blockage of exit to Mt Rose on Callahan ranch road.
    The people who made those remarks would not have if they lived in this high risk area themselves and were faced with the decision of where to evacuate. We residents have been in this situation several times over the years. Just Sunday, we were faced with another fire which may have been deliberately set in Galena Forest. Helicopters were able to put it out by scooping water from Washoe Lake , but one house was burned, one too many.
    There used to be a back way out through Joy Lake Road which I believe has also been blocked with gates.
    There have historically been fires here and in the 1970’s a devastating one. This is why there are evacuation routes set up so people and livestock trailers can get out if they need to.
    Is there any way that a back route can be set up to Fawn lane from Callahan?

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  5. To deal with the issue of a locked gate, I would suggest a very large set of bolt cutters. We have had the same issue here in Silver Knolls with the only secondary evac route through the airport property and a locked gate. I would much rather ask forgiveness after the fact than be trapped and die.

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    • Very good idea to use bolt cutters and I would not ask forgiveness because in a fire emergency seconds count. If anyone gets hurt or killed by their negligence they can and will be sued by the victims family. So really it is in their best interest to make sure that gate is open.

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      • The lock is protected by a cylindrical shroud. I will bring a cordless grinder with a steel-cutting disk and just cut off the tongue attached to the lock. I’ll bring a digging bar too in case I need a little extra force.

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  6. Thank You Tom for keeping us informed.
    I have sent several emails to our governing body with this concern. The only response I have received was from Kelly Echeverria, Washoe County Emergency Management manager. She will be driving to our area today to evaluate the situation.

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