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October 17, 2017

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Fire all around him, man won’t leave his Mount Charleston cabin


Rodney Giles

A view of the Mount Charleston home of Rodney Giles, who chose not to evacuate his residence despite a nearby wildfire, Tuesday, July 9, 2013.

Click to enlarge photo

A view of Mount Charleston from behind the home of Rodney Giles, who chose not to evacuate his residence despite a nearby wildfire, Tuesday, July 9, 2013.

Rodney Giles' neighborhood

Rodney Giles’ entire life is perilously nestled on Mount Charleston.

Flames from a raging wildfire threaten to lick at his door daily. He's one of two people who didn't heed the mandatory evacuation that went into place on Independence Day.

Giles, 63, says he isn’t leaving until those flames actually come knocking because if his cabin burns he’ll have nothing.

Insurance on his cabin on Mont Blanc Court, at Alpine Way, doubled after the last fire on Mount Charleston, so Giles stopped paying.

Metro Police on the mountain, Giles said in a phone interview from his home, have treated him like a criminal and have asked him if he was trying to be a martyr. The situation, they tell him, is dire.

For Giles, who bought the cabin in 1974, it’s Metro that doesn’t get the severity of the situation.

For him, the choice is to stay on the mountain and protect his “life.”

"There's no insurance to replace what I have and I'm a single man. All my little trinkets and toys are the only life I have," Giles said.

He doesn’t want to die for his property, but he says he won’t abandon it without a fight.

“I believe that man has gotten so soft, he's not even willing to protect his land or do anything like that," Giles said. "You’ve got to believe in something; you’ve got to stand up for something.”

This is the fourth fire Giles has faced on Mount Charleston. He says he knows what he’s up against, and he’s staying out of the way of firefighters.

Giles said the seeds for his path in life were sown in his childhood. During a visit from a family friend, someone remarked the friend had a nice family. Giles' father, a former sergeant in the Air Force, pulled him and his brother aside and gave them some advice.

“You can either have a wonderful life, wonderful kids, wonderful home … or you can have money,” he said.

Giles said he and his brother both chose money.

Giles never struck gold, but he said he’s loved his life. The many mementos from his adventures, which kicked off when he left home at 15, are all stored in his house.

He worked at his brother’s Las Vegas construction company as a carpenter for seven years and as an electrician for 34 years.

He retired not by choice. Instead, years of applying elbow grease and a few injuries over the years caught up with him. Electricians have to hold out their arms all day; since both shoulders went out, working wasn’t feasible, he said.

At 6-feet-2 and about 225 pound, though, he’s fairly healthy otherwise, he said. His family has always had a do-it-yourself attitude, and he continues that tradition.

Giles’ hobbies led him to a side business: selling an assortment of motorized contraptions such as rollerblades, unicycles and a blender that can whip up four and a half gallons of margaritas in seconds. He ran Badd-Boyz Motor-Toyz, which he started on $1,200 and three GoPeds – motorized skateboards with handlebars ¬– for about 11 years, he said.

Items from that life are among his treasures. He still has a motorized skateboard with “big monster tires” that does about 45 mph, a standup snowmobile and trophies from when he raced slot cars.

He’s also got a collection of about 60 or 70 flashlights and camplights that he holds dear.

His 2,400-square-foot wood cabin — which is three stories, including a brick basement — isn’t all that’s keeping him on the mountain.

He’s also updating several panicked neighbors daily about the fire threatening the place they all love.

Monday was the scariest day he’s seen yet with the fire coming within 100 feet of the homes in the Rainbow subdivision. He spent about eight hours dousing his home in water. When his knees threatened to buckle, he went inside. Firefighters beat back the flames that day, and the mountain looked “like a birthday cake” that night because there were so many tiny fires, he said.

Giles’ own birthday, June 26, occurred just before a bolt of lightning set the mountain ablaze on July 1.

“Boy after my birthday we caught hell!” Giles laughed.

Giles remembers the mountain when there were only about 50 homes and it was “true mountain living.”

While it isn’t what it once was, he isn’t about to complain. It’s still pretty good, he said.

While Giles and Metro Police may not see eye-to-eye when it comes to his devotion to his property, there is one thing on which they can agree.

A few officers have told him, “You’ve got one of the best views from your place.”

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