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Living With Fire

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.

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.

 

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.

 

Twenty locations of vulnerable areas on, near or around a home that is easily ignitable

Working at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living With Fire Program has altered my perception of the ember threat and proper defensible space. Just the other day, I approached my sister’s house and caught myself secretly congratulating her on her home’s defensible space.

One publication that is partly responsible for my increased awareness is “Be Ember Aware!”. It lists twenty locations around the home that are vulnerable to ignition from embers during wildfire and gives suggestions on how to reduce the threat.

Contrary to the popular belief that homes ignite due to a large wall of flames, experts estimate that 90% of homes ignited during a wildfire are because of embers. Embers are pieces of burning material that can be carried by the wind more than a mile ahead of a fire.  When they land something easily ignitable on or near the house, the home is at risk of burning.

I’ve spoken with a few folks who were surprised to hear about the recommendation to keep woodpiles at least 30 feet from the house or other buildings, or changing out their attic or foundation vents to 1/8-inch wire mesh. To learn more about the ember threat view the publication, “Be Ember Aware!”.

Jamie HeadshotJamie 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.

Recently, I had a defensible space inspection performed on my property by Nevada Division of Forestry’s fire protection officer, Chanse Hunwardsen. Chanse noted some problem areas that I have previously addressed in former blogs, and he also addressed some issues that I had not considered. Watch this video to learn what issues were found and how to resolve them.

 

To learn more about our interactive defensible space graphic, check it out here.

Jamie HeadshotJamie 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 her husband and their mini Australian Shephard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

After experiencing the recent Driscoll Fire, (click here to view last month’s blog) it becomes even more important to continue my efforts to make my home wildfire prepared. I look to the publication, “Be Ember Aware!” for ideas on how to reduce the wildfire threat to my home. This publication contains a list of 22 places around the home that can be vulnerable to ignition by windblown embers produced by a wildfire. During a wildfire, embers can be blown over a mile away from the main flame front and can bombard a home easily igniting these flammable spots. In fact, embers are the major reason why homes are destroyed in wildfires. I won’t review all 22 of the vulnerable areas, but will note some of my home’s problem areas that require attention.

Once I removed the cedar tree in the front yard, (click here for my first month’s blog) it was apparent that our foundation vent had a hole in it and needed to be covered with 1/8-inch wire mesh. If embers were pelting my house, the hole in the vent would have provided an easy entry for embers to blow into the crawlspace and ignite the home.

crawlspace vent broken

The hole in the crawlspace vent.

UGH, my weathered deck. Unfortunately, my husband and I have yet to replace or maintain our deck. All decks should be in good condition to resist ember ignition. It’s also a good idea to remove all combustible debris out from under the deck as those are a fire hazard.  Even the accumulated litter between deck floor boards can be a source of ignition from embers.  A few months ago, my husband and I purchased wooden lattice panels to enclose the deck. However, the publication recommends using “ignition-resistant siding materials”, or 1/8-inch wire mesh to prevent debris and embers from blowing under the deck – I guess we won’t be using those panels.

The condition of my deck. Also note the open space between the deck and the ground.

The condition of my deck. Also note the open space between the deck and the ground.

under deck

A view beneath the deck. The dead vegetation under the deck must be removed.

My home “to-do” list continues to get longer and longer but at least I have an idea of how to keep my home safe from embers. For a full list of vulnerable, flammable areas of your home check out the “Be Ember Aware!” publication (click here for the “Be Ember Aware!” publication) Also, keep an eye out for more of my lessons and experiences with these blogs.

Jamie HeadshotJamie 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 her husband and their mini Australian Shepard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261                       or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

As the Living With Fire Outreach Coordinator, knowing quick updates of current fires is important so we can notify our audience via social media. On Wednesday, I scrolled through Twitter to learn more about the Hawken Fire and I read a Reno Fire Department tweet, “Crews on the scene of another fire threatening structures off of Driscoll Dr. Fire attack is underway #DriscollFire.” My blood ran cold. That’s near my house. Adrenaline pumped through my body as I raced my car from the office to my house. Once in my neighborhood, I was stopped by Reno Police Department and was forced to park my vehicle one-third of a mile away from my house. I got out and literally ran up steep streets to grab my dog and personal belongings.  The closer to my house, the more the streets were cluttered with fire engines, NV Energy vehicles, unmarked white trucks and Volunteer Search and Rescue vehicles. Fire hoses ran along the street and water trickled from them down the pavement. Once I reached the corner of my street, some of my neighbors congregated  and watched firefighters spray water at the charred, smoking fire scar. The fire was mostly contained and except for one damaged structure, all homes were saved. A wave of relief came over me. We are safe. Thank goodness for the swift action of the Reno Fire Department and other emergency responders. Fire season is upon us, and it’s important to be prepared for potential evacuations. I was not prepared this time.

A scene of the Driscoll fire and emergency responders

A scene of the Driscoll Fire and emergency responders.

 

The Living With Fire website has interactive multimedia that explains what you can do during a fire , as well as an evacuation checklist . For example, did you consider that you should take important documents such as bank, IRS, trust, investment, insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, medical and immunization records, wills, contracts, titles and deeds? Or did you think to bring your pet’s medication and vaccination information? It’s also a good idea to have pictures of your animal that show distinguishing marks just in case your pet gets lost. I never considered any of these, but now I have a box of these documents and pictures that I can grab if I’m forced to quickly evacuate. Now I am prepared for the next time.

Please take the time to check out these links. Stay tuned for other blogs on my experiences of a homeowner in a fire prone area.

Jamie Headshot

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 her husband and their mini Australian Shepard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

As the new Outreach Coordinator with the Living With Fire Program, I thought it was fitting to share my trials and tribulations as an owner of an older home in a fire prone area. In 2014 my husband and I purchased our dream home which is nestled in the hills of old Southwest Reno. As first-time homebuyers of a 46 year old home, we discovered the learning curve was steep regarding proper landscape maintenance. I used to look at my yard and shake my head in disbelief and wonder, “Where do I start?” Wait…who am I kidding, I still do that!

The picture marked “Before” is a Google photo of our front yard before we purchased the home. The number “1” represents the ornamental junipers. The number “2” marks the cedar trees. The picture marked “After” is what our home looks like today.

google photo front yard 2011After front yard photo blog 1

After comparing the “before” and “after” photos, it’s apparent that we removed the junipers and cedars. Junipers are bad news during a wildfire because embers can become lodged within them, smolder, ignite and burn at high intensity later after firefighters leave. Firefighters often refer to junipers as “little green gas cans”. I knew these plants were flammable in a wildfire and I ensured this was one of the first plants to remove. The homeowners before me also planted two cedar trees up against the house. The overgrown trees had grown into the roof eaves and were touching the house. This is also a fire hazard and during my first week on the job, I learned that evergreen shrubs such as junipers and trees such as cedar should be located a minimum of 30 feet from the house. In the “after” photo, you can see that these evergreens were removed.

Also in the “after” photo, one can see that we replaced our landscape rock with shredded wood mulch. Unfortunately, on the FIRST day of my job I learned that a home with mulch within the first five feet of a home is NOT desirable. Embers from a wildfire can ignite the mulch, and produce flames next to the house. I also learned that embers are the main reason why homes catch fire during a wildfire. While mulch is aesthetically pleasing, I urge others to not make the same mistake as me and instead use landscape rock, gravel, hard surfaces or herbaceous plants. (Now I have the lovely task of convincing my husband that the mulch MUST be replaced.)

While I have more work ahead of me, these are some of my lessons and experiences as I brave the world of homeownership. To those interested, I highly recommend looking at the publication, “Choosing the Right Plants”. Stay tuned for more of my trials and tribulations!

Jamie Headshot

 

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 her husband and their mini Australian Shepard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.

Carson City’s Wellington Crescent subdivision was threatened by the Waterfall Fire in 2004. Elements of a Fire Adapted Community, including a community fuelbreak, good access, ignition-resistant building construction and defensible landscapes all helped ensure that no homes or lives were lost.

Carson City’s Wellington Crescent subdivision was threatened by the Waterfall Fire in 2004. Elements of a Fire Adapted Community, including a community fuelbreak, good access, ignition-resistant building construction and defensible landscapes all helped ensure that no homes or lives were lost.

Dr. Elwood Miller helps you understand the question: What is a Fire Adapted Community?

 

As coordinator of the Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities, I keep hearing the questions, “What is a Fire Adapted Community?” and “How do you become one?” These questions keep coming up in conferences, small group meetings and individual conversations. By now, numerous definitions have been developed which undoubtedly leads to more confusion and more questions.  Rather than develop yet another definition, I thought a focus on the core concepts may be more helpful.  At the heart of the term, Fire Adapted Community is a mission of survival; survival of people and the place they call home.  And, not only survival, but survival achieved with a minimum involvement of firefighters and their suppression resources. But, how is that possible?  The answer is pre-fire preparation.  In other words, a Fire Adapted Community is one that is fully prepared for the occurrence of wildfire.  It is one where a community of like-minded residents has worked to instill a culture of fire in their community.  It is one where the people have envisioned what it will be like when flames, blowing embers and smoke surround their homes and envelope their neighborhoods and they have mentally prepared themselves for that occurrence.  They have fully accepted their vulnerability and have developed plans to take the steps necessary to ensure their survival.  More than that, they have also taken action to modify their house and the fuels that surround it to make it as difficult as possible for fires to ignite, grow and spread.  In doing this they not only increase the probability that they and their home will survive but they also greatly increase the element of safety for the firefighters that do arrive to provide assistance. Create unity with pre-fire preparation that is broadly accepted, supported, and applied.  That is the key to becoming a Fire Adapted Community. Detailed information on what you need to do, and how to prepare your home and community for wildfire is available at LivingWithFire.info.  Join the Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities to connect with others facing the same vulnerability and seeking to increase their chances of survival.  Being fully prepared is what being fire adapted is all about.

Recently, I had a defensible space inspection performed on my property by Nevada Division of Forestry’s fire protection officer, Chanse Hunwardsen. Chanse noted some problem areas that I have previously addressed in former blogs, and he also addressed some issues that I had not considered. Watch this video to learn what issues were found and how to resolve them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tuvMbjlRIY&feature=youtu.be

To learn more about our interactive defensible space graphic, check it out here.

Jamie HeadshotJamie 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 her husband and their mini Australian Shephard. Contact Jamie at 775-336-0261 or roicej@unce.unr.edu.