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July 29, 2014

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Mount Charleston community serves up feast of gratitude for firefighters

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Steve Marcus

Mount Charleston resident Freddie Spencer thanks firefighters during a free appreciation dinner for firefighters, law enforcement officers, Red Cross volunteers and Mount Charleston residents at the Resort on Mount Charleston Wednesday, July 31, 2013. The Resort on Mount Charleston hosted the dinner to thank everyone involved with fighting the Carpenter 1 wildfire.

Appreciation Dinner for Firefighters

Nevada Division of Forestry firefighter Steve Clement and Metro Police resident officer Mark Baumann go through a buffet line during a free appreciation dinner for firefighters, law enforcement officers, Red Cross volunteers and Mount Charleston residents at the Resort on Mount Charleston Wednesday, July 31, 2013. The Resort on Mount Charleston hosted the dinner to thank everyone involved with fighting the Carpenter 1 wildfire. Launch slideshow »

Firefighters Head Out To Fight Fire

Firefighter Felix Poncho, based in Grants, N.M., uses binoculars to watch lightning strikes at Centennial High School before leaving to fight the Mount Charleston wildfire Thursday, July 11, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Mount Charleston Wildfire Tour

Smoke from the Carpenter 1 wildfire is shown from Kyle Canyon Road on the way up to Mount Charleston Tuesday, July 9, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Marc Nelson didn’t comprehend the threat the Mount Charleston wildfire posed on the Resort on Mount Charleston until he saw the acres of charred land off Kyle Canyon Road.

At that moment, it all became real for Nelson, the resort’s general manager. For 19 days, firefighters fought to contain the flames and protect the mountain many people love. If it weren’t for the firefighters’ efforts, he realized the fire could’ve crept up the road and burned down the resort, and maybe even nearby homes.

Now that the mountain has been deemed safe and the fire had been reduced to smoldering flames, Nelson and the resort decided it was time to say thank you. The resort provided a free banquet on Wednesday as a way to express gratitude to the firefighters, residents, police officers, residents and volunteers who played a role in fighting the wildfire.

“We hosted this because this mountain, this hotel, the people who visit it find it a very special place,” Nelson said. “And to be able to say thank you to the people who put the fire out, keep the jobs for the people, keep the homes for the people. This is just the simplest way for us to say thank you.”

More than 200 people attended the dinner celebration. They filled their plates with BBQ ribs, chicken, corn, baked beans, cole slaw, fruit and other barbecue foods and listened to a DJ's music, but their focus remained on the firefighters.

Residents thanked the firefighters and shook their hands every chance they had. A Girl Scout troop crafted handmade cards thanking each of the firefighters, and provided free boxes of cookies.

When Josh Thalacker arrived with his Scorpions Three crew, residents in line for food broke into applause and a woman approached them thanking them for saving her home. Thalacker was taken aback by the support.

He and his crew are stationed at the Sequoia National Forest in Porterville, Calif. Their job is to build fire lines. Usually they are gone by the end of the fire, but this time they stayed behind to continue building lines because the fire is still burning.

“I’m kind of shocked I guess,” Thalacker said. “Normally we’re not around citizens (to be thanked) or we’re gone.”

U.S. Forest Service Las Vegas branch firefighter Toby Moniz said residents have flooded their department with thank-you cards and banners. This dinner only adds to the support they’ve received.

“It makes it more rewarding to go to work and have people thank and praise you,” Moniz said. “It reminds you why you do the job and shows how much they appreciate you and the work you do.”

The dinner concluded with a special ceremony to thank the firefighters, Red Cross volunteers and other people involved with the fire. Volunteer Clark County Fire Chief Dave Martin received a standing ovation for his efforts.

Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown then took the podium and thanked the firefighters for their efforts in protecting the mountain, and praised the community for their support.

“People ask me all the time about Mount Charleston, and I tell them there is nothing more unique or beautiful treasure in Clark County than Mount Charleston,” Brown said. “But what separates Mount Charleston from anywhere else is the community and their resiliency, will power and (thankfulness).”

The mountain and residents have been through a lot since a lightning strike caused a rampant wildfire on July 1. Now it is over, and Nelson and the residents know who to thank for that.

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