Washoe County DA won't Prosecute Man Who Started Washoe Drive Fire

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Washoe County DA won't Prosecute Man Who Started Washoe Drive Fire

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Image Courtesy: RGJ

A report from the City of Reno Fire Department finds the total property damage of January%u2019s Washoe Drive Fire totals around $4.5 million. KUNR's Kate McGee has more.

Update: 9/22/13 9:15 a.m.

A memorandum from the Washoe County District Attorney's office lays out the reasons why it will not prosecute Mr. Lyle Teuscher, the man who came forward and confessed to starting the Washoe Drive fire on Jan. 20, 2012.

In the memorandum, Chief Deputy District Attorney Kristin Erikson differentiates between setting a fire and disposing of ashes. Nevada Revised Statue refers to an individual, "failing to guard or failing to extinguish a fire."

However, Erikson says according to Mr. Teuscher's statement, "the fire was extinguished in his residential fireplace several days prior to the date of the Washoe Fire...Mr. Teuscher believed his fireplace ashes were cool and safe...,"

The memorandum also states not enough information was collected within the Reno Fire Department's report, making it difficult to prove or disprove Mr. Teuschers statement. There are no statements from neighbors or other witnesses to corroborate or disprove Mr. Teuscher's statement.

Since there was limited information, the DA's office concludes, "although the fire was horrific, it was not a criminal act, but was accidental in nature..."

9/18/2013

The Washoe County District Attorney's office has decided not to prosecute the man who confessed to accidentally starting the Washoe Drive Fire one year ago Saturday.

According to Chief Deputy District Attorney Kristin Erickson, the DA's office has decided not to prosecute because there is not sufficient evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.

The 3,177 acre fire was started by improperly disposed fireplace ashes.

It caused some 10,00 people to evacuate, one death and destroyed 28 homes.

Both the Washoe Drive Fire and Caughlin Ranch fire on November 18, 2011 were started after the traditional fire season had ended.

A usual fire season is from late May to October.

Reno Fire Chief Mike Hernandez says it has revealed one major change to firefighting.

"We have no end of the fire season. We are in a fire season 12 months out of the year," Hernandez said.

Fluxuating weather patterns and global warming have also created drier conditions, according to Sandy Munns, Division Chief with the Reno Fire Department.

He says the changes in weather have also allowed highly flammable cheat grass to grow at faster rates.

"When cheatgrass takes over and humans start building out into these areas where the cheatgrass is, then we have dry conditions, a fire starts--very often due to human causes--then we end up with a cold front, then you have all the elements in place [for a wildfire], Munn said.


Wind gusts up to 80 mph also played a major role in spreading the Washoe Drive Fire quickly.

Update: 1/23/13 9:13 a.m.

A memorandum from the Washoe County District Attorney's office lays out three main arguements why it has decided not to prosecute