Fire in the city

Welcome to this week’s Reno News & Review.

Due to holiday deadlines, this week’s newspaper was approaching complete when the Caughlin Ranch fire struck the city. It’s impossible to express the sorrow my staff and I feel for all the people whose houses were destroyed and whose lives were disrupted or lost.

I live up in the southwest, just out of the evacuation area near Skyline Boulevard. I spent most of Friday at home monitoring a Google map that was created by a guy named Bryce Leinan. I just spoke to him on the phone (check out 15 Minutes on page 39). I do know that many people in Reno owe him a debt of gratitude. Anyway, the map was updating in real time, with the logon and password made available to the public so that people could add information. It was all over Facebook, and all the news media were referring to it. Leinan told me he believes—and he’s a pretty unassuming guy—that it’s the first time in history social media crowdsourcing has been used for this type of natural disaster.

I was mesmerized. Of course, I had several tabs open on my browser, and I was monitoring all the local media sites, but I wasn’t really doing journalism. I was concerned about my own home, as I live on the rim of a canyon, and there was no official Fire or Police Department mapping going on, so Leinan’s map was the best information I had. After all I went through saving myself from foreclosure, I was going to do anything I could to protect my home and property.

At one point, my home was surrounded by the flame icons on the map that indicated currently burning fires, but the closest homes to me that burned were one ridge over.

Anyway, the map has been modified to show where services are available and the location of the homes that burned. Leinan said that he’s helping with a new website to help people prepare for fires. Find it at