Little Valley Fire trial: Cause of fire was 'escape' from prescribed burn

Little Valley Fire

On the sixth day of the Little Valley fire trial at the Washoe County Courthouse, homeowners’ attorneys rested their case today following testimony from the hired fire investigator who confirmed the causes of the flames.

The wildfire burned down 23 homes in October of 2016, following a prescribed burn led by the Nevada Division of Forestry.

Fire investigator Kirk Schmitt testified that smoldering fuels remained at the burn site the night the fire began. He agreed that the cause of the fire was an “escape” from the prescribed burn.

Moreover, the wind was a casual factor and embers from smoldering fuels crossed the control line of the controlled burn.

The findings align with burn boss Gene Phillips’ testimony that the fire crews left the scene the day before the fire began, with more work to be done to put out remaining heat sources.

That day's forecast included high winds.

Schmitt said smoldering fuels do not have enough oxygen to burn open flames, but high winds can quickly turn these fuels into a full-fledged wildfire.

"Anytime you have high winds and you have smoldering fuels out there, anyone of those fuels could have been the source of those specific embers that started the fire," Schmitt said.

Schmitt also said that he analyzed burn patterns and fuel topography as he walked the perimeter of the burn site several times.

Defense attorneys responded and said that Schmitt's testimony is speculation.

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