University of Nevada Cooperative Extension invites residents affected by the Washoe Drive Fire to informational sessions on January 26, 30 and 31 to discuss post-fire insurance questions, learn how to help their landscapes recover from a wildfire and steps that can be taken now to help protect homes from embers during the next wildfire.

The presentations will run from 6-7 p.m. at Pleasant Valley Elementary School located at 405 Surrey Drive.

  • Thursday, January 26: Rajat Jain and Marie Holt, Nevada Division of Insurance, will present “Insurance – Recover, Rebuild, Restore” and field questions. The Nevada Division of Insurance protects the rights of Nevada’s consumers and is available to help file an insurance claim or answer questions about insurance.
  • Monday, January 30: JoAnne Skelly, UNCE Extension Educator Carson City/Storey County, will provide tips for homeowners on post-fire landscape care. Skelly worked extensively with property owners and their landscapes after the Waterfall Fire and will share what she learned from that experience.
  • Tuesday, January 31: Ed Smith, UNCE Natural Resource Specialist, will present the video “Be Ember Prepared” and will answer questions from the audience. Windblown embers were a major factor in home losses in both the Caughlin and Washoe Drive Fires.  Additional information on how to “Be Ember Aware” is also available at

The sessions are free and open to the public.  University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities.  If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact Sonya Sistare at 775-336-0271 or in advance of the event.  UNCE is an EEO/AA institution.

Insurance Commissioner Scott J. Kipper urges anyone affected by the Washoe Drive fire to contact the Nevada Division of Insurance (Division) if you have questions about insurance or need assistance with insurance claims.

Hazards that are generally covered by a home or renter’s insurance policy include damage from fire, wind, smoke or loss of use of your home. If you believe you have an insurance claim, immediately contact your insurance company or your insurance agent to file and discuss the details of your claim. Division’s team of insurance professionals can be reached at (775) 687-0700 or (888) 872-3234 to assist you with any questions that you may have. A list of the claims hotline numbers for Nevada’s ten largest home insurance carrier groups can be found at

What to Do Immediately Following the Fire

  • Immediately report your claim to your insurance company or your local agent. If available, have a copy of your policy and home inventory on hand. If you cannot find the company or agent’s number, call the Division of Insurance.
  • Make TEMPORARY repairs or arrange for a licensed professional to do so to prevent further damage or theft. SAVE all receipts for your repairs.
  • Take PHOTOS of the damage and remove undamaged personal property if your home cannot be secured.
  • Do NOT dispose of property until an insurance adjuster has reviewed it for your claim.
  • If you need to find other lodging, keep RECORDS of expenses and all receipts. Homeowners and renter’s insurance generally provide coverage for expenses like meals, rent and transportation.
  • If you do not have a HOME INVENTORY, make a list of items going room by room from memory. Include as much detail as possible, like where and when the item was purchased, the cost, brand name and model.

From Your Insurance Company

  • Your insurance company will send an insurance adjuster to survey the damage at no cost to you.
  • Do not feel rushed or pushed to agree on a settlement. If there are disagreements, try to resolve them with your insurer. If you cannot reach an agreement or have questions about the settlement being offered, contact the Division for assistance.
  • Your full claim may come in multiple payments. The first will likely be an emergency advance and may include additional living expenses. The payment for your personal property and any additional living expenses will be made out to you. Payments for the structure may be payable to you and your lien holder if there is a mortgage on your home.
  • Do NOT be surprised if your initial payment for damage to your home is made on an actual cash-value basis (after depreciation). If you have a replacement cost-based insurance policy (no deduction for depreciation), the insurance company will pay the rest of the amount AFTER completion of repairs (and production of receipts).

Making Repairs

  • Be WARY OF FRAUDSTERS who take advantage of the chaos following a wildfire. When choosing a contractor to make repairs, check licensing and references before hiring. Always insist on a written estimate before repairs begin and do not sign any contracts before the adjuster has examined the damage. The adjuster may want to see the estimate before you begin making repairs.
  • Do not pay a contractor the full amount up front or sign over your insurance settlement payment. A contractor should expect a down payment when the contract is signed and the remainder when the work is completed.
  • If the contractor finds hidden damage that was not discovered in the original assessment by the adjuster, contact your insurance company to resolve the difference. For any disagreements that cannot be resolved, contact the Division for assistance with your claim.

If your insurance company delays in responding to your claim, call the claims department to find out if an adjuster has been assigned. Verify your contact details, especially if you have evacuated your home. Call the Division for assistance if the delay is unreasonable.

Here are some additional links to helpful resources from the Division:

Homeowner’s Insurance Guide

Flood Insurance Guide – Note that Northern Nevada is under a flash flood watch tonight, a threat of particular concern for those living in burned areas.

Earthquake Insurance Guide

Homeowner’s Policies for Top 10 Home Insurance Groups

If you have any questions about the coverages in your policy, or if you need help with a problem regarding your claim following a fire or other loss at your home, contact the Division at (775) 687-0700 or (888) 872-3234.

If you are in the path of the Washoe Drive Fire and need advice on safe and effective evacuation, please consult our publication on Fire Adapted Communities. In it you will find advice on what to take, how you should prepare you home to increase the likelihood it will survive, and what to do if you cannot evacuate. We have also included this information on page A25 of the AT&T phone book in the event residents lose electricity.







By Ed Smith

Natural Resource Specialist

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension


For many, evidence of the Caughlin Fire is a daily reminder of the threat wildfire poses to the Reno area. Strong winds, burning embers, an abundance of dried leaves, needles and grass, inadequate defensible space and houses built from easily ignited materials played a huge role in the loss of homes during the Caughlin Fire. A question that hopefully springs from that event is what will we, as a community, do differently between now and the next wildfire?

Representatives from Washoe County's federal, state and local firefighting agencies, the Nevada Fire Safe Council, homeowners, county government and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension meet to discuss the elements of a new Washoe County CWPP planning guide and template.


Last year, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, representatives from local, state and federal firefighting agencies, and the Nevada Fire Safe Council introduced the concept of Fire Adapted Communities (FACs) to several Washoe County neighborhoods at risk from wildfire. FACs are communities located in wildfire-prone areas that can survive wildfire with little or no assistance from firefighters.

The FAC concept represents a departure from traditional thinking about our response to the wildfire threat. Historically, we responded by protecting communities with firefighters and equipment when wildfire occurred.  In FACs, the emphasis changes from “protection of communities” to “preparation of communities” and shifts the responsibility for dealing with the wildfire threat from being solely the fire department’s task to the community as a whole.

Shifting our thinking now is critical given some disturbing projections from the nation’s wildfire experts:

  • Fire seasons will become longer, more intense, and wildfires will be more difficult to control.
  • The number of people living in or adjacent to high fire-hazard areas will increase.
  • Our firefighting resources will not keep pace with the increased wildfire threat.

They concluded that the economic, environmental and societal costs of wildfire will dramatically increase in the future and identified FACs as a key component to minimizing the anticipated impacts from wildfire.

In 2012, Living With Fire will focus on the importance of Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) as a vehicle for incorporating the FAC recommendations into community design and maintenance, and taking communities to the next step in wildfire preparedness.

CWPP planning assists communities in establishing priorities for protecting life, property and infrastructure. The plans can take a variety of forms, but at a minimum must:

  1. Be collaboratively developed
  2. Identify and prioritize areas and methods for hazardous fuel-reduction treatments
  3. Recommend measures to reduce the ignitability of structures throughout the community

The Living With Fire program and its partners are currently preparing a Washoe County Community-Level CWPP guide to assist communities into and through the CWPP process.

It’s important for residents to begin asking questions like “what is the wildfire threat to my community?” and “how do I prepare for wildfire?” By reading the educational materials at, taking the steps to become a FAC and by starting the CWPP process, Reno residents can prepare themselves for the next wildfire and greatly decrease its impact on their home and family.

Please check back regularly as we develop this program.

By JoAnne Skelly

Extension Educator, Carson City/Storey County

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension


The Deer Run fire two weeks ago in east Carson City and the November fire in Caughlin Ranch are reminders that we need to prepare our homes against wildfire. While these fire events are unusual for this time of year, we can’t get complacent once winter arrives and think, “Oh, fire season is over,” particularly when the weather has been so dry.

The Deer Run Fire in Carson City ignited on December 30 and threatened several homes.

Is your home ember prepared? Will your home survive when (not if) the embers arrive? During a wildfire, thousands of embers can rain down on your roof and pelt the side of your home like hail during a storm. If these embers become lodged in something easily ignited on or near your house, the home will be in jeopardy of burning. Embers coming into contact with flammable material is a major reason why homes are destroyed during wildfire.

Common materials that become embers during wildfire include dry leaves, pine cones, branches, tree bark, twigs and wooden shingles. Depending on fire intensity, wind speed and the size of materials that are burning, embers can be carried more than a mile ahead of the fire. Consequently, even homes located blocks away from the actual flame front are vulnerable to ignition and complete destruction.

By Being Ember Aware! and taking action ahead of time, a homeowner can greatly reduce the ember threat. Things to check as you ember prepare your home include:

  • Replace wood shake roofs with fire-resistant types.
  • Plug openings in roof coverings and cover attic, eave and foundation vents with 1/8 –inch mesh or install new vent types designed to prevent ember entry.
  • Keep rain gutters free of plant debris.
  • Routinely remove plant debris such as branches and needles from the roof.
  • Replace plastic skylights with types constructed with double-pane tempered glass.
  • Install an approved spark arrester on chimneys.
  • Replace single-pane windows with multiple-pane tempered glass types.
  • Replace wood mulches with noncombustible types and remove plant debris, including dried grass and flowers, dead leaves and branches from flowerbeds next to the house, other buildings and next to wooden fences and decks.
  • Replace ornamental junipers with low-growing deciduous shrubs or flowers under irrigation.
  • Maintain wooden fences in good condition and create a noncombustible fence section or gate next to the house for at least five feet.
  • Move firewood stacks and scrap lumber piles at least 30 feet from the house or other buildings.

For complete information on increasing your home and property’s wildfire safety, download a copy of Fire Adapted Communities – The Next Step in Wildfire Preparedness or go to