NDF official speaks publicly about Little Valley Fire for first time


Dozens of Washoe Valley residents showed up to the Toiyabe Golf Club on Thursday night to learn about fire preparedness and evacuation plans, but many were surprised when a Nevada Division of Forestry official spoke publicly for the first time since the Little Valley Fire sparked.

As Nevada heads into fire season, officials across the state want people to be ready to evacuate in the event of a wildfire.

“The question is: Are you prepared?”

Mel Holland spoke about his evacuation experience during the Little Valley Fire. “I want to concentrate on mistakes so you won’t do what I did.” He talked about what worked for him, and what didn't.

Holland said, “Everyone in this room is painfully aware of the devastation of wildfires.” He spoke before a room filled with other people affected by the Little Valley Fire.

Debbie Sheltra's home was one of the 23 burned to the ground in the blaze. She said, “I think it is a slap in the face because I thought the insurance commissioner had nice things to say, but all of us had pretty sophisticated policies. We’ve pretty much worked those problems out already.”

She said many of the fire victims are already well-versed about what to do in the aftermath of a wildfire because all of them have been living it since October.

Sheltra was also outspoken about confusion and the lack of communication she experienced during the evacuation. "The only people that let us know to get out were the volunteers.” She said county officials took hours to alert residents to evacuate their homes after the fire sparked.

Sheltra wants to see Washoe County officials come up with a better evacuation plan. “We wanted to hear an evacuation plan. What are you going to do when the next thing happens?”

But Thursday's meeting also served as an update for Washoe Valley residents about rehabilitation efforts in the wake of the wildfire.

“So what I’m trying to do right now is put together a plan to try to remove a lot of the dead trees on private property.” Anna Higgins with the Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF) gave an update on the agency’s plans to harvest dead trees in Washoe Valley.

She said, “The logging operation will probably go on over the next couple months.” Higgins' appearance at the meeting on Thursday night was the first time an NDF official has spoken publicly about the Little Valley Fire.

Sheltra said she appreciated the information Higgins provided, but it doesn't alleviate the frustration many Little Vally Fire victims still have with Nevada officials. "It’s a day late and a dollar short and the governor is trying to squash our lawsuits and the state won't get their heads out of the mud and deal with us.”

Some fire victims were also asking questions about the status of their lawsuits against the state. You may remember, Attorney General Adam Laxalt filed a motion to dismiss all of those cases last month.

News 4/Fox 11 will continue to provide updates on the progress of those lawsuits.

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