Last July’s Carpenter 1 Fire made national headlines and filled the skies of Las Vegas with smoke. A recent YouTube search turned up a video, posted by the U.S. Forest Service, about the role fuels reduction projects played in saving many homes in the Mt. Charleston area from wildfire.

You might be wondering “What is a fuels reduction project?” Don’t worry, so was I. In the video, a Nevada Division of Forestry representative explains that a fuels reduction project is meant to thin vegetation, to reduce space between trees, shrubs and understory plants to reduce speed, flame lengths, and fire intensity when a fire burns up to the area. The video also shows a map of a strip of fuels reduction, also known as a fuel break, and explains that it, along with the firefighters, are responsible for saving the homes in Trout Canyon. Watch it here.

As fuel breaks seem to be effective in saving a community from an oncoming wildfire, how do I know if my community needs one? Time for some sleuthing.

As a Nevada Division of Forestry Fire Protection Officer, Paul Carmichael performs home assessments and provides fuel reduction recommendations for homeowners. He uses Living With Fire material and his experience with fire and fuels to make recommendations to reduce a home or community’s wildfire threat.

To get started Paul suggested talking to neighbors to get buy in for the project and giving your local fire department a call to see where to go next. An important step to include in the process is a maintenance plan.  Vegetation grows back, and all that hard-won space can become very flammable again over time.

I’d imagine that establishing a fuel break would not only be labor intensive, but expensive as well. Paul had a suggestion for me there too. Local fire departments, county representatives, or sometimes even established homeowners associations can apply for grant funding to get the work done. One he suggested in particular was the Nevada Division of Forestry’s State Fire Assistance Grant. Read up on the program here.

I think many of my neighbors would agree that a fuel break around our community would bring us all a little more peace of mind. The process seems like a bit of an endeavor, but I like the idea of working together with my neighbors and local fire department to get started. Ultimately our community will be closer, and much safer, for it.

Let’s get to work!

Natalie Newcomer

 

The 4th of July and a local fireworks show has always been a fixture of my upbringing in Nevada. My family would always pack cold drinks and desserts in a cooler and find a cozy patch of grass or a great spot to set up camping chairs in a parking lot to watch one of the area’s professional firework shows. As a new homeowner living at the base of a mountain range dotted with burn scars, I’m still looking forward to my favorite professional fireworks display, but am also concerned about the potential fire hazard illegal fireworks could cause my community.

A local news story recently confirmed my concern. Their message: leave firework shows in the hands of professionals. The interview showed footage of a partially-burned house where a bottle rocket landed in a nearby juniper bush and ignited the structure. What happened to this home isn’t an isolated incident. According to the City of Sparks Fire Marshal, Bob King, 4th of July fireworks cause more fires in the United States than all other fire causes combined in a typical year. The interview cautions that anyone caught with fireworks in Washoe County can be charged with a misdemeanor, receive jail time and can be fined. If a fire is started by fireworks, they could have to pay for fire suppression costs and for damages caused by the fire. The City of Sparks Fire Department will accept fireworks voluntarily handed in with a “no questions asked” kind of policy. Watch the interview here.

Aside from creating a fire hazard, many people who are lighting fireworks or are nearby as they’re shot off have been gravely injured. I was surprised to learn that a sparkler can generate enough heat to really hurt someone. A fact sheet from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows that the average level of heat a sparkler puts off when lit is 1200 degrees Fahrenheit at its tip; that’s hot enough to melt glass, burn wood, bake a cake, boil water and cause third-degree burns. NFPA makes a similar caution to King’s: if people want to see fireworks, they should attend a show put on by experts.

I was happy to discover that there is something I can do if I see or hear illegal fireworks nearby… call 911! The City of Reno provided this information along with some safety tips on grilling and campfires.  Read it here. It’s a good idea to check with your local fire marshal for the regulations in your area.

I can’t wait to celebrate the fourth with my loved ones while enjoying the sights and sounds of the local professional fireworks show. I’m also grateful to my local fire services and other community members who want to keep the holiday a safe one, and keep any fires from ruining the Independence Day fun.

Happy 4th of July!

Natalie Newcomer