WHITE ROCK, Nevada (ABC4 Utah) – Romolio Madrid and his nephew were busy Sunday.
They were cutting back weeds and dried grass that had built up around his home. A day later, Madrid believed clearing the dried brush surrounding his home saved it from being destroyed Monday in the Oil Well fire near Elko Nevada.
“We finished brush backing the whole area, back and front,” Madrid said. “(It helped) tremendously. There was no where for the fire to burn. It was real low.”
The fire approached his home and scorched the perimeter before dying out. But the area around him was scorched. The homes of two of his neighbors were destroyed. Madrid left during the evacuation Monday thinking his home was gone. Tuesday he learned differently.
“When I got here, my heart dropped, it was still here,” he said.
The Oil Well fire is now 90% contained. BLM officials said it burned 7,400 acres and destroyed 7 homes, four of which were occupied. The final tally is less than what was previously reported by fire officials.
Tony Amigliore is one of the casualties. His home was destroyed and had no fire insurance.
“It’s indescribable,” he said. “Everything’s gone. My life, not my life but everything I’ve always worked hard for is gone.”
Fire officials said FEMA, the federal agency that helps with disasters had only agreed to pay for costs related to fighting the fire. Homeowners like Amigliore aren’t covered.
“It’s ongoing,” said Linda Bingaman with the Elko County Fire Protection District . “We’re looking for other resources for them. But at this point most of its going to be their homeowners insurance and other assistance we can get through Red Cross.”
A spokesman for BLM said the Oil Well fire is a reason homeowners need to take steps before it’s too late.
“What makes a big difference is what do you have on your property,” said Greg Deimel with BLM. “Do you have what’s called defenseable space? Do you have a ring of rocks or grass around fifty feet around your property? That makes a huge difference.”
That’s what Allan Schultz was doing Wednesday morning on behalf of his neighbor whose home wasn’t touched by the fire. Deimel said cutting back dried grass and weeds helps in times like this.
“I do this all the time for them,” said Schultz. “It keeps the weeds down, keeps from getting a fire started.”
Deimel said the cause of the fire remains unknown. The Elko County Fire Protection District and the BLM will hold a town meeting later this week to discuss fire related issues with the public. As of Wednesday, a time and place has not been determined.