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December 21, 2014

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After the fire, businesses welcoming visitors back to Mount Charleston

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Steve Marcus

The Resort at Mount Charleston is shown Thursday, July 18, 2013. The mountain is expected to reopen to the public on Friday.

Returning to Mount Charleston

A Resort at Mount Charleston sign board sends a welcome to visitors Thursday, July 18, 2013. The mountain is expected to reopen to the public on Friday. Launch slideshow »

Video of burned area near Harris Springs

Don’t let the wisps of smoke in the distance scare you.

The fires smoldering on the steepest peaks near Mount Charleston — visible remnants of the 28,000-acre Carpenter 1 Fire — will be there to stay for weeks or maybe months, but the public can re-enter the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area today. Residents were allowed to return to Kyle Canyon on Wednesday.

On Thursday, businesses were busily preparing to welcome back guests after two weeks of shuttered doors. At the Resort on Mount Charleston, for instance, a worker was power-washing sidewalks leading to the entrance.

“We’re working around the clock with cleaning crews and with all our vendors, getting the place prepped for opening,” said Michael Crandall, senior vice president of the Siegel Group, which owns and operates the resort. “We did have some damage — mostly smoke damage to the exterior.”

Ash dirtied the resort’s pond, chimney and air-conditioning system, and lack of electricity spoiled food in the kitchen and bar, Crandall said. And the forced closure during one of the busiest times of the year translated to a “significant” revenue loss, he said.

Crandall said he was grateful for what wasn’t lost, though.

The wildfire crept up the back of the ridge behind the resort but didn’t spill over and ruin property or destroy the scenic view. The resort’s message on its electric sign sums up their feelings: “Thank you, firefighters.”

Even the property’s five ducks and Koi fish survived.

“(The ducks) were there, and they were happy to see us,” said Mark Nelson, general manager of the resort. “The first thing we did was feed them.”

Farther up the hill, owners and employees of the Mount Charleston Lodge were doing the same: cleaning, restocking the kitchen and hoping for the best. The lodge will have a “soft opening” from noon to 5 p.m. today.

“The volume of traffic does increase after an incident like this,” said Thomas Schneekloth, director of operations and events coordinator of the lodge, referring to curious onlookers.

Schneekloth estimates the lodge lost 700 to 1,200 customers per day during the evacuation period, but the property remains intact, despite smoke in higher elevations visible from an outdoor patio.

“We gotta deal with the beauty this mountain brings us in the good times and with the peril it brings us in the bad,” he said. “We’ll take the trade-off on a day like today.”

Aside from the smoke and some cleared areas near the fire line, visitors to Mount Charleston won’t necessarily see too much fire damage; however, they will pass charred land near mile marker 6 on Kyle Canyon Road.

That’s where the wildfire crossed the state route last week, burning Mesquite bushes and Joshua trees in its path. Black burn marks and charred vegetation dot the hilly landscape.

Near Harris Springs, a particularly hard-hit area, trees appear black and skeletal. Gone are any traces of green, except for in the distance around the fire perimeter.

Camping areas in Harris Springs will remain closed to the public, along with select other sites in the recreation area. The following is a list of what’s open and closed in the recreation area:

Open trails and recreation sites:

• Bristlecone, Trail Canyon to State Route 158, Robbers Roost, Telephone Canyon, Fletcher Canyon, Mary Jane Falls, North Loop to the junction with Trail Canyon trails

• Fletcher View, Hilltop Campground and Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort

• Cathedral Rock, Deer Creek, Sawmill and Lee Meadows picnic areas

Closed trails and recreation sites:

• North Loop at the junction with Trail Canyon, Griffith Peak, South Loop, Cathedral Rock, Echo and Little Falls trails

• Lovell Canyon trail system

• Cathedral Rock and Echo trailheads

• Harris Springs and CC Springs dispersed camping areas

• Old Mill, Foxtail and Kyle Canyon picnic areas and Mahogany Grove and McWilliams campgrounds remain closed for construction.

U.S. Forest Service officials caution visitors about the possibility of flash floods this weekend because of an increased chance of thunderstorms and heavy rain. Avoid parking vehicles in low-lying areas and do not enter moving water, officials said.

“Fires make flash floods much larger than they otherwise would be,” said Jon Kohn, a public information officer with the incident management team.

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