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Living With Fire

A picture of cut vegetation in a pile on the ground with mountains in the background.

A pile of vegetation after a resident improved their defensible space Photograph courtesy of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

When maintaining or creating defensible space, property owners can end up with a large amount of leaves, weeds, branches and shrubs that need disposing of. As the mornings become brisk and the fall season approaches, some questions arise as to whether or not pile burning is allowed as one way to get rid of this waste. Armed with little knowledge of pile burning, I asked Charles A. Moore, fire chief of Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District, some questions:

What is open pile burning?

Pile burning refers to the burning of cut and stacked vegetation. Pile burns can be a useful method for reducing brush fire fuels, bush regeneration, property maintenance and other agricultural activities. However, poorly-managed pile burns can pose a brush fire risk and endanger lives, property and the environment.

What are examples of items that can be burned and cannot be burned?

Dry and dead vegetation from the property is the only appropriate use for pile burning. Trash, garbage, household or building materials such as plastics, wooden pallets or cardboard boxes are prohibited for pile burning.

Who is open pile burning available to?

Residents who reside in the unincorporated areas of Washoe County can pile burn. The district generally allows open burning in spring and fall depending on several factors, including but not limited to: wind, temperature and condition of vegetation. We have a permitting process in place for pile burning. Other factors are air quality and inversions. The Washoe County Health District does not permit open burning between Nov. 1 and April 1.

Is pile burning permitted right now?

No. Pile burning is currently prohibited in Washoe County due to hot or warm temperatures, dry conditions, an extreme increase in the average fuel loads of wildland fuels this season due to the heavy winter of 2017 and the wet spring this year. Additionally, the warmer seasons tend to have more gusty winds, which also increases the fire hazard.

Why is open pile burning available only some of the time?

We make the decisions to allow open burning based on a number of factors, including the amount of moisture, wind conditions and fire index. Each day is different. Fire safety is our number one priority and we will not allow pile burning if conditions are not appropriate.

As an alternative to pile burning, we strongly encourage residents to use other means of vegetation disposal such a composting green waste or taking vegetation to a waste facility prior to undertaking a pile burn.

We hosted a green waste day this past June, and we anticipate hosting a weekend of green waste recycle days this coming fall, at multiple locations. We will announce the dates and locations soon.

How can residents find out if open pile burning is available?

Check out the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District website at www.TMFPD.us. We also make public announcements through social media and our local media partners. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

How can residents get a burning permit?

Contact us at 775-326-6000. During open burning periods, we also make the permit available online.

When open pile burning is available, are there any tips for residents to properly burn?

When open burning is permitted, you must have a permit from the fire district, and you must call us each day you want to undertake a burn so you can confirm if it is an approved burn day or not.

Generally speaking, however, make the pile wide and long rather than high, 3 feet by 3 feet at most.  It should not resemble a bonfire.  Stay away from power lines, and make sure you choose a space that is open, away from trees, tall vegetation, structures and fences. Maintain a clear area between piles and any other combustible material. Have a water source close by. We always encourage you to call our fire prevention officers at 775-326-6000 with any questions on how to burn properly.

Pile burning is just one of many ways to remove vegetation from a property. Be sure to check with your local fire department or district to learn if pile burning is allowed or if there are any other services available to help remove the green waste from your property.

headshot of Jamie Roice-GomesJamie Roice-Gomes is the manager and outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

A picture of a duffel bag. That reads, "Emergency To-Go Bag Wildfire! Prepare. Anticipate. Evacuate.

    Photograph Courtesy of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

My colleague shared her experience when a wildfire was approaching her community several years ago.

“In the early morning hours, I woke to a nearby friend’s text saying ‘I can see the flames coming down the hillside. We’re evacuating!’  After racing out the front door, smelling smoke and seeing the hillside pulsing a vivid red, I did what any well-prepared person would do – I panicked! Through my frightened tears, I started searching for a long lost ring I had promised to give my son, grabbed photo albums and framed portraits off the wall, and dug through the desk for important papers. I was not prepared and my panic made it hard to think rationally.” Evacuating your home during a wildfire is a terrifying experience. It’s difficult to think accurately and quickly when faced with the imminent threat of wildfire. With all of the wildfires occurring in the summer and inquiries about packing to-go bags, I thought it might be useful for residents to view a detailed list of what to pack. The following is a checklist of items that individuals should consider packing in their to-go bag. It’s recommended that residents should pack one for each family member, and one for each of their pets. It’s important to note that to-go bags should be prepared BEFORE a wildfire threat begins.

  • Water – One gallon/person/day (3 day supply for evacuation).
  • Food – non-perishable (3 day supply for evacuation).
  • Flashlight.
  • Battery powered or hand crank radio tuned to a local news channel.
  • Extra batteries.
  • First aid kit.
  • Medications (7 day supply).
  • Multi-purpose tool.
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items (shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.).
  • Copies of important documents in your to-go bag and stored away from the home (medication list, medical info, proof of address, deed/lease to the home, bank, IRS, trust, investments, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, etc.)
  • Computer back up files, posted on the cloud or saved on a thumb drive.
  • Inventory of home contents. Consider making a list, utilizing a home-inventory app, or videotaping prior to an emergency. Store them on the cloud or keep them in a safe place away from your home.
  • Photographs of the exterior of the house and landscape.
  • Cell phone and charger.
  • Family and emergency contact information.
  • Extra cash, Credit/ATM Debit cards.
  • Emergency blanket.
  • Clothing for 3-5 days.
  • Family heirlooms, photo albums and videos.
  • Maps of the area.
  • Medical supplies (hearing aids, with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, cane, etc.)
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, wipes, diapers, etc.)
  • Games and activities for children.
  • Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl, etc.)
  • Ensure you have a picture of your animal in case they are lost during a wildfire.
  • Two-way radios.
  • Extra sets of car keys and house keys.
  • Manual can opener.

This checklist was adapted from to-go bag lists on www.Redcross.org and www.livingwithfire.info

headshot of Jamie Roice-Gomes

Jamie Roice-Gomes is the manager and outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

Picture of fireworks in the night sky.As July 4th approaches, it got me thinking of wildfire preparedness. Growing up in Nevada and celebrating Independence Day was about enjoying barbequed food with friends and family and settling down in lawn chairs to enjoy a professional fireworks display in the evening sky. However my husband’s upbringing in Oregon proved to be much different.

He said, “We celebrated the 4th of July by lighting our own fireworks. Rows of homes in the neighborhood would participate simultaneously. I remember sitting on the lawn in our front yard and taking turns lighting fireworks. When I moved to Washoe County, with a few exceptions such as tribal lands, I realized that fireworks weren’t sold at local stores and was shocked to learn that fireworks were illegal.”

Newcomers, visitors and even some residents don’t realize that fireworks are illegal in the majority of Nevada. Besides Clark County (legal to possess “safe and sane” fireworks) , Esmeralda County (allowed one mile out of any town),  Lander County, (permitted outside of the townships) and tribal lands (can be purchased there, but once the fireworks leave tribal lands, they can and will be confiscated) fireworks are illegal to possess and use.

Fireworks don’t bode well in our high fire-prone areas. The 2008 Ridgecrest Fire, started by children playing with fireworks, destroyed four homes. Fine fuels like cheatgrass are plentiful in our region and are dried out at this time of the year. Cheatgrass is an example of an invasive grass that is highly flammable. It’s advised to remove this flammable grass. Learn how to remove cheatgrass safely and properly .

Nevada State Fire Marshal Bart J Chambers says, “The safest way to view fireworks is to watch a professional show and there are many being held in Nevada this year. Look for these events in local area newspapers, websites and television and radio announcements.  Please enjoy and have a very safe 4th of July Holiday with your friends and family.”

As we celebrate Independence Day, let this be a reminder for locals, visitors and newcomers that fireworks are illegal in most Nevada counties, to please leave the fireworks displays up to the professionals and that residents should prepare for wildfire. Learn how to prepare for wildfire as reviewed in the June 2018 Living With Fire blog. 

 

headshot of Jamie Roice-GomesJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

Picture of trees, mountains and smoke with a helicopter with water in the air. “Once I saw the plume of smoke I quickly determined a list of to-go bag items and removed the dead plants from my deck.” This was the beginning of a conversation that I had with an individual regarding a recent wildfire and what his thought process was once he saw smoke from his residence. This individual and I joked that these preparations could have been made a little earlier. Fortunately this wildfire was fully contained shortly thereafter with no structures or lives lost. However, many people are guilty of racing to prepare for wildfire once it begins, including myself. Read “A Close Call During the Driscoll Fire”.  Many don’t realize that the actions taken before a wildfire play a huge role in reducing the risk of wildfire on homes. Below is a list of six ways that residents can prepare now for wildfire:

1) Be Ember Aware

It’s estimated that 90% of the homes destroyed during a wildfire are due to wind-blown embers. Many don’t realize that wind-blown embers can travel up to a mile ahead of a wildfire.  When they land on, in or around something easily ignitable, the home can be vulnerable to ignition and complete destruction. Taking the proper precautions to ensure that a home is ember prepared can reduce the threat of wildfire ignition to a home. Some items to consider are: Replace your wood shake roof with a metal, composite or tile roof and keep rain gutters free of dead plant material such as dried leaves or pine needles.

See where homes can be vulnerable to an ember attack

2) Begin and Maintain your Defensible Space

Defensible space is the area between your home and an oncoming wildfire where the vegetation has been managed to reduce the risk of wildfire and where firefighters can safely defend your home. For example, the first five feet from a home is an important area to keep noncombustible in order to reduce the risk of ignition from embers. Homeowners can use herbaceous plants like lawn, ground cover and flowers;  rocks, concrete, brick and pavers;  and should keep it free of woodpiles, dead plant material and flammable shrubs and debris.

3) Review your Family Emergency Plan and Practice a Family Evacuation

It’s important to know how to safely and effectively evacuate during an emergency especially if residents need to evacuate quickly. One important element is that everyone in the family should know the best escape route out of the home and know two routes out of each room.

Learn more on how to prepare for Evacuation

4) Register with your Local Emergency Response System (also known as Reverse 911)

This may be the most important step you can take. Local Emergency Response Systems, commonly known as Reverse 911, is used by safety officials to send phone calls, emails and texts to a specific area with a prepared message during an emergency. For example, if an area is asked to evacuate, this message will be sent to all of those residents who are in the system. Some residents might not receive these messages if the electricity fails, if the resident isn’t home during an emergency, does not have a land line, or if they have an unlisted phone number. Most systems allow residents to enter multiple forms of contact information, such as unlisted home number, cell phone, work phone and email address into the database. The following are links on how to register for counties and areas that offer this service:

5) Complete a Home Inventory

If a fire destroyed your home, could you remember the estimated value and date of purchase for all your possessions for insurance purposes? Yeah, me neither! A home inventory is important as it provides an accurate record of a homeowner’s possessions, helps process insurance claims faster and helps one purchase the correct amount of insurance. The inventory is an important tool to document losses from a fire but also from other causes such as flooding, burglary and vandalism. Residents can inventory their belonging using a smart phone app, or an inventory sheet. Consider creating  videos of your possessions as well.

Read a review of three ways to complete a home inventory

6) Pack a To-Go Bag

A to-go bag should be packed in advance with specific items so residents can quickly and safely evacuate their home. Sometimes, this may be all that individuals have time to grab. Things to consider packing can include: a battery powered or hand crank radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, medications, clothing, personal toiletries, flashlight, cell phone with charger, extra set of car and house keys, contact information for family, friends and physicians, copies of personal documents such as your home inventory, bank, IRS, trust, investment, insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, medical and immunization records, wills, contracts, titles and deeds. For more on what to pack

This is a ton of information to take in and to do, but it’s important to prepare now for wildfire. To learn more about how to prepare for wildfire

headshot of Jamie Roice-GomesJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

Photo for many goats grazing in a field as a form of weed control. Photo courtesy of Goat Grazerrs.

Goats grazing in a field can be an effective method of weed control. Photo courtesy of Goat Grazers.

Spring is one of my favorite seasons – the daylight increases and the temperature gets warmer, and that means that I can spend more time outdoors! On the other hand, spring also means that I need to clear the sprouting weeds from my yard before they get out of hand. Just yesterday I spent an hour picking weeds from my front yard. The area of concern for my property is my backyard, which consists of a steep slope that makes the weeds difficult to access. Now, I could just let these weeds go, but that produces lots of fuels, or things to burn! Removing these weeds is especially important because we know that wildfire travels faster on a slope.

One option to consider is using grazing animals to eat my weeds! With little knowledge about grazing animals, I asked Michael Beaudoin, coordinator of The Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities, a few questions since he’s been involved in many grazing projects. Here’s what he had to say:

What animals are used for grazing?

Horses, cattle, sheep and goats can be used for grazing. Each of them has a set of benefits and drawbacks during grazing. The size of the animal and the type of grazing can affect what plants they target. Horses tend to clip grasses off at the ground because they have upper and lower sets of teeth. They can also cause more soil compaction. Cattle are heavy animals that consume a large amount of grass, but don’t clip vegetation as low. Sheep and goats are more gentle, and are better at reducing fuels on steeper landscapes.

What do goats and sheep or other grazing animals eat?

Goats are browsers that prefer leafy vegetation from shrubs and trees. This can be a risk when the target vegetation is located near ornamental vegetation. However, they can eat a large range of grasses and are very well-adapted to Nevada’s temperature extremes and rugged terrain. Sheep will graze cheatgrass, a flammable non-native plant found around many of Nevada’s at-risk communities. Horses and cattle will mainly graze cheatgrass while it’s green and in the fall after the seeds drop. Goats will graze a variety of plants, including plants with thorns.

Will they eat my dead weeds?

Yes, goats and sheep will eat your dead weeds, depending on their species. However, both species will also eat plants that you may not want them to eat or that they should not eat. Halogeton, death camus, larkspur and certain species of vetch are common weeds that can kill grazing animals. Grazing cheatgrass and other plants when they are dead or dormant will likely require protein supplementation to ensure proper nutrition of the animals. Knowing what plants are in the target area is critical to accomplishing beneficial grazing while ensuring animal health.

When should these animals eat the weeds?

Flammable annuals provide the best forage quality and are best controlled in the early spring (March-April) and in the fall after seeds drop. Some species, like cheatgrass, are difficult for animals to graze when mature due to the presence of stiff, barbed seeds that can injure the animals and make it more difficult to digest. Grazing should occur in at least two consecutive years before reduction in the weed seeds will be observed. Heavier grazing can have a multi-year effect on reducing fuels.

How are these animals contained?

Goats are infamous for being escape artists. Portable electric fencing is the best containment material for goats. An electrified perimeter or cross fence can be charged by a portable generator or battery. Guard dog species, such as Anatolian (shepherds) or Great Pyrenees, need to be included in the management herd to protect the goats from coyotes, mountain lions and other natural predators. Sheep require the same management and are less prone to sneaking under or over fences. They can also be herded effectively in Wildland Urban-Interface areas. Cattle and horses require heavier and more permanent fences if used in smaller areas.

How would I prevent them from eating my flowers?

Fencing important plants off with an electric fence is the best way to prevent goats and sheep from eating them. Flowers and other important plants should be fenced off in a 5-foot radius to ensure that grazing animals can’t reach through the fence to eat your prized flowers. It is a risk to have these animals in landscaped yards, and using them in larger lots and adjacent to communities is preferable to alleviate risks of grazing non-target ornamental vegetation.

There are a few local companies who will bring their grazing animals to your property. I’ll be looking into this and I urge others to do the same, as it is a great way to reduce the threat of wildfire!

headshot of Jamie Roice-GomesJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

 

Spring is one of my favorite seasons – the daylight increases and the temperature gets warmer, and that means that I can spend more time outdoors! On the other hand, spring also means that I need to clear the sprouting weeds from my yard before they get out of hand. Just yesterday I spent an hour picking weeds from my front yard. The area of concern for my property is my backyard, which consists of a steep slope that makes the weeds difficult to access. Now, I could just let these weeds go, but that produces lots of fuels, or things to burn! Removing these weeds is especially important because we know that wildfire travels faster on a slope.

One option to consider is using grazing animals to eat my weeds! With little knowledge about grazing animals, I asked Michael Beaudoin, coordinator of The Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities, a few questions since he’s been involved in many grazing projects. Here’s what he had to say:

What animals are used for grazing?

Horses, cattle, sheep and goats can be used for grazing. Each of them has a set of benefits and drawbacks during grazing. The size of the animal and the type of grazing can affect what plants they target. Horses tend to clip grasses off at the ground because they have upper and lower sets of teeth. They can also cause more soil compaction. Cattle are heavy animals that consume a large amount of grass, but don’t clip vegetation as low. Sheep and goats are more gentle, and are better at reducing fuels on steeper landscapes.

What do goats and sheep or other grazing animals eat?

Goats are browsers that prefer leafy vegetation from shrubs and trees. This can be a risk when the target vegetation is located near ornamental vegetation. However, they can eat a large range of grasses and are very well-adapted to Nevada’s temperature extremes and rugged terrain. Sheep will graze cheatgrass, a flammable non-native plant found around many of Nevada’s at-risk communities. Horses and cattle will mainly graze cheatgrass while it’s green and in the fall after the seeds drop. Goats will graze a variety of plants, including plants with thorns.

Will they eat my dead weeds?

Yes, goats and sheep will eat your dead weeds, depending on their species. However, both species will also eat plants that you may not want them to eat or that they should not eat. Halogeton, death camus, larkspur and certain species of vetch are common weeds that can kill grazing animals. Grazing cheatgrass and other plants when they are dead or dormant will likely require protein supplementation to ensure proper nutrition of the animals. Knowing what plants are in the target area is critical to accomplishing beneficial grazing while ensuring animal health.

When should these animals eat the weeds?

Flammable annuals provide the best forage quality and are best controlled in the early spring (March-April) and in the fall after seeds drop. Some species, like cheatgrass, are difficult for animals to graze when mature due to the presence of stiff, barbed seeds that can injure the animals and make it more difficult to digest. Grazing should occur in at least two consecutive years before reduction in the weed seeds will be observed. Heavier grazing can have a multi-year effect on reducing fuels.

How are these animals contained?

Goats are infamous for being escape artists. Portable electric fencing is the best containment material for goats. An electrified perimeter or cross fence can be charged by a portable generator or battery. Guard dog species, such as Anatolian (shepherds) or Great Pyrenees, need to be included in the management herd to protect the goats from coyotes, mountain lions and other natural predators. Sheep require the same management and are less prone to sneaking under or over fences. They can also be herded effectively in Wildland Urban-Interface areas. Cattle and horses require heavier and more permanent fences if used in smaller areas.

How would I prevent them from eating my flowers?

Fencing important plants off with an electric fence is the best way to prevent goats and sheep from eating them. Flowers and other important plants should be fenced off in a 5-foot radius to ensure that grazing animals can’t reach through the fence to eat your prized flowers. It is a risk to have these animals in landscaped yards, and using them in larger lots and adjacent to communities is preferable to alleviate risks of grazing non-target ornamental vegetation.

There are a few local companies who will bring their grazing animals to your property. I’ll be looking into this and I urge others to do the same, as it is a great way to reduce the threat of wildfire!

headshot of Jamie Roice-GomesJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

Runners at the starting line for the three-hour multi-hour trail run in May 2017

Runners start the three-hour multi-hour trail run in May 2017

Two things that I love are being active and experiencing the outdoors. One event that combines both of these is to run a one-mile loop through the scenic Bartley Ranch while benefitting fallen firefighters. While I’m not a distance runner by any means, there’s an option to run or walk for a total of one hour that suites my needs.

Sunday, May 6 is the Battle Born Trail Series: FIRE UP FOR FIREFIGHTERS Multi-Hour Event at Bartley Ranch. Runners can chose a one-hour, three-hour, six-hour, or 12-hour timed run around a one-mile loop at Bartley Ranch. Runners can challenge themselves by running as many loops in their timed event, or can take breaks in between to visit Smokey Bear and explore fire engines from multiple agencies. There will also be a Wildfire Preparedness and Prevention Treasure Hunt for family members starting at 10:30 a.m. with fun prizes for all.

All of the proceeds will stay local to benefit fallen firefighters via the Nevada Local Assistance State Team (L.A.S.T.). L.A.S.T. is a national collaborative effort between the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The local Nevada chapter is supported by Federal, State and local firefighting entities. I hope to see you there!

Sign up for the multi-hour event.

Learn more about L.A.S.T. 

headshot of Jamie Roice-GomesJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

 

Residents, local, state and federal fire agency representatives collaborate in a

A few days ago I received a call from a rural Nevadan resident. He had recently moved to Nevada from Utah and had questions about creating a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). Immediately, I knew these important and frequently asked questions could be answered at our Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities 4th Annual Conference. However, let’s first take a step back and define a CWPP and discuss the benefits of creating and updating this document.

For those who don’t know, a CWPP describes the wildfire hazards and outlines mitigation measures for a defined area or community. It allows the community to work collaboratively with government agencies in the process.

The benefits of a CWPP may include:

  • Opportunity to increase community capacity by working together.
  • Relationships are formed between communities, fire departments or other emergency responders and resource management agencies tasked with hazardous fuels reduction.
  • Opportunity to establish a locally appropriate definition and boundary for the Wildland-Urban Interface.
  • Fuels-reduction projects that are identified in a CWPP receive priority for funding and implementation by federal and state agencies.
  • It may streamline federal planning process for fuels reduction work. For example, if a federal agency is planning  a fuel-reduction project to implement a recommendation in a CWPP that lies within the interface and is located no farther than 1 ½ miles from the community boundary, the federal agency does not need to analyze other alternatives.
  • The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are to spend not less than 50 percent of the funds allocated for hazardous fuel-reduction projects in the interface as defined in a CWPP.

Not only is it beneficial to have a CWPP, but an updated CWPP is also important because it keeps the community’s specific hazards current, involves the community’s stake holders in the planning process, and includes the updated conditions in the area such as overgrown vegetation or work that has already been completed in the community.

If you are interested in learning how to update or create a CWPP for your community  join us at The Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities 4th Annual Conference where speakers will address this and how to utilize the CWPP template on the Living With Fire website. You can bet I’ll be there absorbing this important information!

The conference is Monday, March 12 from 8:00 am- 5:00 pm at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno. Registration is free, but space is limited.

To view the conference agenda

To register for the conference 

headshot of Jamie Roice-GomesJamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

 

 

A burn scar from the Caughlin Fire is shown between groups of homes.

After the Caughlin Fire. Photograph Courtesy of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

I awoke to the smell of thick campfire-like smoke that had filtered into my bedroom. I jumped out of bed, turned on the bedroom light switch and nothing… the electricity was out. I ran to the window to see the glow of flames cresting the hill on the other side of McCarran Blvd., a major four-lane Reno street. Since the wind was blowing and the fire was close and spreading, I made the decision to evacuate. Outside, the sky was orange from the wildfire and the street was congested with fire engines and vehicles of evacuating residents. Fortunately, I was able to negotiate the chaos safely with my laptop in one hand and some clothes in the other. I’m lucky that my residence and I were unscathed from the wildfire. In the early morning hours of November 18, 2011, this was my experience during the Caughlin Fire. This Saturday marks the six-year anniversary of this fire. A total of 1900 acres and 43 structures were destroyed or damaged and 8,000 people were evacuated. Continue reading and consider these lessons learned from the Caughlin Fire.

Be aware that wildfires can occur in the autumn and winter:

The Caughlin Fire occurred during the middle of November. The winds, coupled with dry vegetation and windblown tree branches that struck a powerline were the culprits for this wildfire. Winds blew at 20-30 mph gusting to 60 mph and the area had experienced an “abnormal dryness pattern”. The fire started when windblown tree branches struck a powerline, generated sparks and ignited the dry vegetation above the Caughlin Ranch area. The winds then carried the fire and embers to burn a total of 1900 acres. This situation shows that wildfires can start and spread year round.

 Prepare for evacuation:

This fire occurred during the middle of the night and 8,000 residents were evacuated at a moment’s notice. Emergency responders knocked on doors in attempts to evacuate residents in the dark while the electricity was out. This caught most residents off guard. Imagine trying to evacuate in the middle of the night with no electricity. Panic can cloud anyone’s judgement during a situation like this one. This is why it’s important to prepare for evacuation before a wildfire occurs. Learn how to prepare for evacuation

Sign up with your local emergency notification system:

Many residents opt out of having a landline in lieu of a mobile device. However, this makes it difficult to notify residents when there is an emergency. To ensure that residents are notified of an emergency, they can sign up for an alert system. The following links are cities and counties that offer a reverse 911-type emergency notification system in Nevada:

 Be ember aware:

Wind-blown embers can travel up to a mile ahead of a wildfire. It’s estimated that 90% of the homes destroyed during are due to wind-blown embers. The Caughlin Fire was no exception as embers traveled ahead of the fire causing spot fires. Embers hop-scotched past some homes and destroyed others. During the chaos of evacuation and without power, some homeowners were forced to open their garage manually, and they forgot to close their garage doors when they left. This allowed embers to enter and ignite combustibles in the garage. Taking the proper precautions to ensure that a home is ember prepared can reduce the threat of wildfire ignition to a home.

See where homes can be vulnerable to an ember attack.

Maintain your defensible space:

Providing the proper vegetation management around one’s home reduces the threat of wildfire ignition. During the 60’s and 70’s, it was popular for residential landscapes to utilize ornamental juniper. An ornamental juniper doesn’t require much water or maintenance, however, it is very flammable as it may contain a large amount of dead plant material. Many of the homes around the Caughlin Ranch area were built during that era and utilized this flammable shrub their landscapes. Another concern is the fallen, dried tree leaves and pine needles that occur in the autumn. This dead vegetation is easliy ignited by embers. However, cleaning up this plant material can help reduce the risk of wildfire ignition to a home.

**note, the first paragraph was re-used from the February 2017 blog**

Headshot of Jamie

Jamie Roice-Gomes

Jamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu

Picture of germinated cheatgrass in the fallA concerned resident contacted me regarding cheatgrass control because of its high-fire hazard potential. He noticed that his cheatgrass had started to germinate, but wanted to use preemergence herbicides to fight the weed. Considering that Fall is the best time to apply preemergence herbicides to control cheatgrass, I do know that it should be done before it appears. To help me better answer herbicide questions, I turned to University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Wendy Hanson Mazet, master gardener coordinator. I also asked Ed Smith, natural resource specialist, about cheatgrass to help answer this question.

To understand how to combat cheatgrass it’s important to understand the life cycle of this weed. Cheatgrass is a “winter annual”. That means it germinates during the fall and early winter, survives the winter, grows in the spring and dies in the summer. The seeds from the dead plant can remain in the soil up to five to seven years and the seeds will germinate under the right conditions. As Ed Smith says, “Cheatgrass goes through a green phase, a red/brown phase and finally a yellow phase. Our management goal is to prevent cheatgrass from setting seeds.” He stressed that over time, our goal is to decrease the amount of seeds present in the soil. Currently, there are some areas in Nevada that has cheatgrass already growing and other areas that haven’t seen any germination yet. The growth stage your cheatgrass is at, influences which control method is best. Here are some of the control methods for cheatgrass at different growth stages during the fall:

If cheatgrass hasn’t germinated, preemergence herbicides might be an option:

  • Herbicides are chemicals that kill plants. Preemergence herbicides are chemicals that are applied before the weed appears. Some folks prefer this method because chemical application can be easier to control cheatgrass. However, there are lots of factors to consider when dealing with preemergence herbicides. According to Wendy, preemergence should be applied to bare soil and it should remain within the first one to two inches of the soil surface. If the herbicide is not within that region, it won’t work. Other factors to consider are soil type (sandy soils will have troubles retaining preemergence), slope (potential for the herbicide to migrate downhill), preemergence application (some must be watered into the soil), and where to apply herbicide (it can affect your grass and flowers or prevent your planted seeds from growing).

If cheatgrass has already sprouted, consider these options:

  • Grazing Animals: If cheatgrass has already sprouted, grazing animals such as goats, sheep, cattle or even chickens can be used. Wendy cautions that grazing animals must be contained to eat the weed or they might consume other plants.
  • Mechanical Methods: People can physically remove these weeds by hand pulling, hoeing, weedeating, disking or tilling, but if the soil is disturbed there is a chance for further cheatgrass or other weed growth.
  • Post-emergent herbicides: Chemicals that are applied after a plant has started growing are referred to as post-emergents. Wendy warns that organic, post-emergent herbicides work best to kill broadleaf plants and not grass – so, they wouldn’t work well on cheatgrass. She recommended using either a chemical designed for both broadleaf plants and grasses, or one that only controls grasses. She added that it is important that you add a spray aid, or an adjuvant, which is a “sticker” to help the chemical adhere to the plant and to apply it before the plant sets its seed.

Herbicide application is obviously more complex than I previously thought. Every property or situation is unique with different circumstances to consider. For questions, contact Wendy Hanson Mazet at 775-784-4848 or look at these publications “Using Preemergence Herbicides for Weed Control in the Home Landscape”   or “A Homeowner’s Guide to Cheatgrass”

Headshot of Jamie

Jamie Roice-Gomes

Jamie Roice-Gomes is the outreach coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living with Fire Program.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation and a Master of Arts in Interactive Environmental Journalism. She was a public relations assistant for Conrad Communications, a public information officer intern at the Nevada Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and a Biological Science Technician at the USDA-Agriculture Research Service. She also enjoys volleyball, the Great Basin Desert, and spending time with family. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.