Brothel owner's home may be 1 of 19 burned in wildfire


USA Today Network
Sarah Litz, Yvonne Beasley, Marcella Corona and Jason Hidalgo, Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal
7:47 p.m. EDT October 14, 2016

Sarah Litz reports from the Little Valley Fire, which started early on Oct. 14, 2016 in Washoe Valley.

NEW WASHOE CITY, Nev. — Almost 20 structures, including many homes, were destroyed Friday in a fast-moving wildfire in a valley south of Reno, fire officials said.

The fire, which was reported just after 1:30 a.m. PT Friday, has burned a little more than 3 square miles in Washoe Valley west of Interstate 580, said Battalion Chief Alex Kukulus of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District. It is totally uncontained, and 19 structures have been lost, plus another seven outbuildings and seven large barns.

“The real concern right now are wind-driven spot fires that are igniting as far as a mile away,” said Chris Ciarlo, Washoe County spokesman.

Among those whose homes were destroyed: Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothel east of Carson City. Roads are closed in the area and officials have not released the addresses of the damaged and razed residences, but Hof tweeted a picture of his burned house.

In his tweet, Hof attributed the fire to a controlled burn gone awry. Chief Charles Moore of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District said initial reports of the fire were in an area where state firefighters had set small fires last week to clear dead brush on land that the University of Nevada-Reno owns, and Nevada Division of Forestry investigators will look into the three-day prescribed burn as a potential cause.

Hof said his neighbor Marvin Gates, former owner of the Sagebrush Ranch brothel in Mound House, Nev., fled his home as flames were burning on the side of his house and driveway. Neighbor Roger Primm, son of casino owner Gary Primm, also evacuated from his home in the area.

At least two Las Vegas members of the Nevada Legislature, in a special session in Carson City less than 10 miles to the south, were staying at Hof’s guest house when the fire broke out, Hof said. He was not there last night.

GOP Assemblywoman Michele Fiore helped negotiate an end to a land-rights standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year, and Libertarian Assemblyman John Moore was elected as a Republican but switched parties after he was sworn in. Chuck Muth of Las Vegas, president of the conservative group Citizen Outreach, also was staying at Hof’s guest house.

Winds reached 87 mph Friday morning and blew continuously at around 25 mph near what has been dubbed the Little Valley Fire. A high-wind advisory is in effect until 8 p.m. Friday and 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

The gusty conditions are preventing air tankers from flying and hampering efforts to contain the blaze, fire officials said. A band of showers moved across Washoe Valley in early afternoon, offering a glimmer of hope to firefighters and homeowners.

Other residents of the wooded area just east of Lake Tahoe, such as 73-year-old Hub Zemke, remain concerned. He said his home is all he has.

“All I’m hoping right now is my house isn’t burned down,” Zemke said. “Police knocked on my door early in the morning, and I got out of there. I just want to know if my house is OK.”

Follow Sarah Litz, Yvonne Beasley, Marcella Corona and Jason Hidalgo on Twitter: @SarahLitz93@YvonneBeasley@Marcella_Anahi and @jasonhidalgo

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