Campfire cause of blaze

A campfire in an area accessible only by foot likely caused the Waterfall fire, authorities said Sunday.

Fire investigators on Thursday and Friday processed the scene believed to be the fire's origin west of the waterfall. It is reachable only after a 45-minute hike on an unmaintained, primitive trail, said Kim Martin, Great Basin Incident Management Team commander. The trail is described as rocky, steep and with high vegetation.

Evidence found there suggests an illegal campfire was the cause of the blaze that leveled 15 homes in Kings Canyon and Timberline last week and threatened hundreds more.

Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong declined to reveal what evidence was recovered, but said it had been turned over to his department to be processed through the Washoe County Crime Lab.

"The location is not accessible by vehicle, and it's unlikely a group of juveniles would hike that distance to just have a party," he said.

Sheriff's investigators questioned several teens in relation to the fire after they received information there was a recent party in the hills above Kings Canyon near the waterfall, but the investigation revealed the party never happened, Furlong said,

"The interviews we have conducted have not resulted in any information relating to the fire," he said.

Gary Schiff, U.S. Forest Service district ranger for Carson City, said the area of origin had signs warning against campfires.

"Because of the extreme fire danger, the trailhead was clearly posted with a sign prohibiting campfires.

Fire patrols had been increased in the area as well," he said.

Investigators would like to talk to anyone in the Kings Canyon vicinity up to a week prior to the fire being reported early Wednesday morning.

Because the valley above the falls is not visible to residents below, authorities say the fire could have smoldered for days before being reported.

Furlong asks anyone with information to call the Sheriff's Department at 887-2020, ext. 14, or Secret Witness at 322-4900.

"We are encouraging anyone who's been on the hiking trails in the falls area recently to call the Sheriff's Office and allow us to hear information you might have. We'll determine if it's significant or not," he said.

The fire investigation is a joint effort by the Nevada Division of Forestry the U.S. Forest Service and the Carson City Sheriff's Department.

Contact F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.


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