As We See It

When the blaze is out, will residents want to return to a changed Mount Charleston?

At press time, the massive Mount Charleston wildfire was still only 10 percent contained and had burned more than 25,000 acres.
Photo: Leila Navidi

The Mount Charleston wildfire continues to rage and dominate headlines as the top-priority blaze in the West. Since starting July 1 with a lightning strike, it has destroyed some 25,000 acres of Mount Charleston and six structures, and the longer it burns, the more questions area residents are asking themselves: What if our homes burn down? What if wildlife is permanently displaced or, worse, destroyed? And what will the mountains look like once all of this is over?

For Angie Tomashowski, a Mount Charleston resident for nearly 25 years and owner of Mount Charleston Realty with her husband for the past 21 years, the answers are more troubling than the questions. “I’m really trying to not even think in that direction,” she says. “If you asked anybody, I think we’re all still trying to process what’s happening. I guess we’re prepared for the worst, but we’re hoping and praying for the best right now.”

Through her job, Tomashowski is well aware of the residential makeup of the area. “Some have smaller, older vintage cabins, and others have big, luxurious custom estates. Some are part-timers, others have lived there 40 years.” But as devastating as the fire is for Mount Charleston’s hundreds of full-time residents, Tomashowski says everyone in the Valley shares this pain. “It’s not just the residents’ mountain, it’s all of Southern Nevada’s mountain.”

Nancy Barber has only lived full-time in Mount Charleston’s Rainbow Canyon for the last three years, but it was her summer home for nearly 20. A New Jersey native, Barber moved to Vegas decades ago, but couldn’t stand the heat, necessitating a summer escape. When the property next to their part-time residence became available, the Barbers bought it and built their dream house. The winters are a bit long for her taste, but she considers it the perfect place to live—or did, anyway.

Barber has her mind made up should the fire take her home: “I wouldn’t want to rebuild at Mount Charleston. For one thing, half the mountain is gone, and for another thing, it’s just too risky.” Her backup plan is to move to Oregon, and even if her home survives, Barber doesn’t want to live in an area where the scenic views have been replaced with ash and a denuded landscape. “If the whole thing is burned to the ground, I don’t think I could stand to look at that every day.”

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Magazine's managing editor, having previously served as associate editor at Las Vegas Weekly, assistant features ...

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