Russel Barron was leaving Bully's Sports Bar with his parents on North Carson Street when they parents saw the smoke.
"We were done eating lunch and we were like, 'It's not by our house, it's not by our house,' and then it was right by our house," said Barron, who lives at Deer Run and Mallow roads at the eastern Carson City limits.
A fire erupted to the east of Carson City at about 12:45 p.m. Friday and almost immediately threatened 20 homes. It was fanned by wind gusts of 50 and 60 mph, Carson City Fire Department Chief Stacey Giomi said, and grew to almost 400 acres by the afternoon. The cause is under investigation, he said.
Barron was standing in his street at about 3:30 p.m., watching the firefighters work. His dog danced around the street and played with a stick at his feet.
"We were driving over here and there was just big black plumes and we went, 'Oh, shoot, those could be houses," Barron said. "It was pretty scary there for a second."
Barron lives in one of the 20 houses that were threatened by the fire. Officials came by and asked him and his parents to evacuate voluntarily, he said. They never got as far as packing, but did start narrowing down what they would take, he said.
With the winds blowing easterly and away from the homes, the immediate threat was soon minimized, Giomi said - provided the wind didn't change directions.
At about 2:15 p.m., Tracy Mcleod, of Washoe City, was standing in her friend's front yard not sure what she should do. Mcleod, like Barron, was in town for lunch when the fire broke out. Her friend was recovering from shoulder surgery, and with two horses, unsure of what to do. So Mcleod rushed over to help, talking her way past roadblocks along the way.
"It still feels (the wind) is blowing that way," Mcleod said, nodding to the east. The horse were in a trailer hitched to a truck behind her. "It's good if it stays that way."
By that time, the fire had poured into Brunswick Canyon. The flames that were visible from downtown had moved over the hill, leaving little to watch but smoke and small orange dots of distant fire line workers as they trudged over hot spots.
"There's not much we can do along the head of the fire because of the wind," Giomi said. "So we're really attacking the flank."
They had about 175 people helping to fight the fire by late Friday afternoon, with responders from all the surrounding agencies. The steep, rocky terrain and limited road access further slowed the attack, Giomi said. And the simple timing of an off-season fire didn't help either.
"One of the main things we use in fires like this are aircraft," he said. "But we don't have those available this time of year because wild land fires aren't supposed to happen in December."