Nearly one year after fire at Cottonwood Complex, both residents and firefighters reflect on lessons and what's next
For many people, the pond on the Roger and Beverly Johnson's looks like any other. For them, it was a lifesaver. “I sat down on the bank, think she was gone. The smoke cleared she's in the middle of the water.”
The Johnsons were one of a few dozen who lost their homes in the "Cottonwood complex" fire that burned through eastern Reno county on March 5, 2022. For the couple, it still doesn’t feel real some days that they survived the flames.
Beverly says “I thought I was a goner, you know, and then when we come out here and see all this, you know, and all the trees are dead and everything in the hole in the ground was where our house was.“
Sunday marks a year since the Cottonwood fire started from an unattended burned bush pile. The Hutchinson fire department has spent the last year trying to learn from it.
Doug Hanen, the division chief of operations tells KAKE “we review things, there are always things we could be a little better on. So we've done some training specific to the Cottonwood.”
The department also has three new brush trucks on the way but supply chain issues have slowed those down. Hanen says they have gotten in their new protective gear for the firefighters though.
With wildfire season slated to pick up in the days and weeks as we enter spring, HFD says their firefighters will be ready to go back out there, whatever the size of the fire is.
"We watched the fire danger in our the index, see where that's at and, you know, we just mentally prepare, you just know that it's coming. Hopefully, if we keep getting the moisture that we've had, we'll get an early green up this year.”
As for the Johnsons, they are primarily focused on what they still have after Cottonwood, not what they lost. Beverly says “we still have the property and we still can come out here and sit down and relax and the fire didn't burn our little cabin up there."