Highway 16 Fire, One Year Later


Blackened fence posts and a few scorched tree branches are small reminders of the blaze that destroyed nearly 5,000 acres one year ago today. More than 60 homes were damaged by the fire but four homeowners lost everything.

The Jackson family lost everything but each other.

“The materialistic things can go right out the door,” said Jim Jackson. His family is currently in the process of moving into their new home at the same location. The family moved to a rental home in Star following the blaze, where Jim and his wife Tammy continued to home school their children and began the process of working with their insurance company. Jackson said his family is in no rush to replace everything,

“We’re going to move into the new house, have our beds and our dishes and that’s about it ... It all got taken away and that’s OK,” he said. But Jackson admitted that moving into a new home is awkward. “The view is the same, but we’re totally different and the inside is totally different.”

Just two doors down from the Jackson family lives Kurt McClenny, deputy chief of the Eagle Fire Department. His yard did receive major damage, but McClenny said defensible space probably saved his home from the wildfire.

“It’s not if, it’s when another fire will burn through,” said McClenny.

McClenny said he went to his neighbors' homes and made them aware of the fire, suggesting they turn sprinklers on as a precaution in the event of changing winds. The winds did change, for the worse, sending the fire toward homes and families. McClenny said he believed if the fire had not been contained in the area it was, it would have burned all the way to Bogus Basin, with resources running thin and access to those remote areas being extremely difficult. Forty two police units, 75 fire vehicles and 14 aerial units, with total personnel near 300 coming from as far as Vale, Ore., fought the fire.

The Highway 16 fire damaged scores of homes and destroyed nine outbuildings, seven vehicles, six trailers and 29 motorcycles. It was estimated that $7 million in property was lost.