Why Do So Many Old-Timers Still Care About UNLV Basketball?

Photo by Josh Metz

Photo by Josh Metz

Simple: In a city still without a major league pro sports team, UNLV represents something tangible and relatively “normal” around which our community can rally. Oh, and then there’s the fact the 1990 Runnin’ Rebels hold the record for the largest-margin of victory in an NCAA championship game (30 points, over the snooty blue bloods of Duke). It doesn’t hurt that, like Las Vegas, UNLV and its men’s basketball team have long been derided by the nation at-large. Or that, in the years leading up to the championship, the Runnin’ Rebels were a ragtag group of second-chancers recruited by Jerry Tarkanian, the coach Las Vegas loved and the rest of the nation loved to hate. A city of outsiders built on losers cheering on a team of outsiders hellbent on winning. What’s not to like?

During our colder months, firewood is available at my grocer, yet nobody I know has anywhere to burn it. Who are they selling to?

Me! And anyone else living in a fireplace-outfitted home built before July 1, 1991. That’s when both Clark County and the City of Las Vegas—aiming to keep the EPA off their backs, and federal highway funds coming their way—adopted new sections to their respective building codes. The codes imposed restrictions on new construction, specifying that fireplaces in the Valley must be natural gas, electric or a wood burner that “conforms to the ‘Phase II Environmental Protection Agency Standards for Wood Heaters’” (less than 7.5 grams of emitted particulates per hour). Of the three options, builders overwhelmingly chose to go gas—likely the easiest, most appealing and most cost effective (to them).

Burning wood certainly has drawbacks (the effort, the mess and the pollution chief among them), which is why many residents with old wood-burners have retrofitted their fireplaces with gas. But it’s a dirty Vegas secret that the reverse is sometimes possible; we’d be lying if we said we never knew anyone who bought a house built after the summer of 1991 and promptly ripped out the gas logs. Why? Because gas fireplaces strain to satisfy the atmospheric characteristics for a cozy, romantic fire—emitted particulates be damned!

For those who choose to capture those atmospheric characteristics in their backyard with a fire pit purchased at a home-improvement store, take note: You’re actually breaking the law. In fact, burning wood outdoors for any purpose other than cooking is illegal without a permit. If you crave a legal, old-fashioned, wood-burning fireplace, relocate to an established neighborhood. Even some apartments have them!