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Washoe County Programs

Living With Fire

Living with Fire is a comprehensive, multi-agency program aimed at teaching homeowners how to live more safely in high wildfire-hazard environments. The program, encompassing research and education, was developed in 1997 as a result of a collaboration between University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE), Nevada’s Agricultural Experiment Station and the Sierra Front Wildfire Cooperators, a group of 12 Nevada and California firefighting agencies.


One of Nevada’s most pressing natural resource issues is the threat of wildfire to human life and property. Much of Nevada is considered a high fire-hazard environment, possessing the ingredients to support intense and uncontrollable wildfires. Research shows that how a house is built, the characteristics of adjacent vegetation and routine maintenance often determine which homes burn and which survive.

The importance of wildfire education was identified in a 1997 needs assessment involving local fire officials. More acres burned in Nevada during the 1990s than in the previous 40 years combined. Of the 10 worst fire seasons experienced in the state, six were in the past eight years. In 2007, more than 900,000 acres burned across Nevada — a total of 784 fires. Particularly devastating was the Angora Fire at South Lake Tahoe, burning 3,100 acres and destroying 254 homes. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board identified avoidance of catastrophic wildfire as the top priority for the Basin.

What Has Been Done:

UNCE and its collaborators focus on pre-fire activities that reduce the wildfire threat around homes, thus improving the survivability of those homes and occupants. They provide homeowners with wildfire threat reduction recommendations developed by Nevada’s firefighting experts.

The major components of Living With Fire are:

  • Living With Fire: A Guide for the Homeowner. This book is probably the most widely distributed wildfire threat reduction publication in the nation, with more than 40 versions and 2 million copies in the U.S. and Canada. A Lake Tahoe edition was published in 2007
  • Workshop materials in English and Spanish, including a PowerPoint presentation, CD, videotapes and handouts, developed for Nevada’s most hazardous areas and vegetation types. More than 200 sets are under use by firefighting agencies. Instructional DVDs and videotapes, in English and Spanish, are available in markets, drugstores and libraries;
  • Educational workshops targeting the landscape (green) industry;
  • Multi-agency gatherings, such as the 2007 Nevada Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Summit, attended by 129 individuals and agencies from across the state, representing 68 high wildfire-hazard communities; and
  • Public-awareness activities, such as the Nevada Wildland Fire Awareness Week in May 2008, which included educational programs and release of materials statewide.

In 2005, more than $107,000 worth of in-kind services and funds from communities were documented in support of Nevada Fire Safe Council projects. The council — a byproduct of Living With Fire -- is a collection of community organizations throughout the state. Approximately $1.8 million was spent on fuels reduction projects in 18 Nevada communities, which resulted in 7,962 tons of wildfire fuels being removed and 1,089 acres treated.

In 2006 in Carson City, revegetation of burned areas was a priority. Working with UNCE, the Nevada Division of Forestry and volunteers potted 4,550 Jeffrey pines in containers for planting. Seventy-eight willows were planted to stabilize Ash Canyon Creek. One thousand trees were planted with help from the Boy Scouts, with a 50 percent survival rate. In addition, 2,200 cubic yards of fuels were reduced to 25 cubic yards of mulch for 20 property owners.

Evaluation of the 2007 Living With Fire educational programs to the green industry consisted of a certification examination after a 12-hour training session. The 28 individuals who undertook the testing passed with an average score of 88 percent. Further, 95 percent of respondents indicated they would use the information from the training and, in turn, share it with clients during the next nine months.

An evaluation of the 2007 Fire Summit was completed by 67 percent of the attendees — 72 homeowners living in high or extreme fire-hazard communities and fire service representatives responsible for protecting those communities. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they were familiar with the Living With Fire materials prior to attending the summit. The conference had an overall 4.8 rating (on a scale of 1 to 5) in terms of being worthwhile.

University of Idaho Cooperative Extension teaches a Living on the Land program, which includes a Living With Fire component. In an evaluation of this program, 44 participants had a statistically significant improvement in their knowledge of fires and defensible space as a result of the teaching of this module.


Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Association of Counties, Nevada Division of Forestry, Nevada Fire Safe Council, Nevada Insurance Council, USDA Forest Service, the Nevada Division of Emergency Management and Private Donors.

See Also: For additional information, please visit our Living With Fire Web site.

Contacts: Lindsay Chichester, Extension Educator, 775-887-2252,
Ed Smith, Area Natural Resources Specialist, 775-782-9960

Programs Program Information

4-H Afterschool

All children face risks as they grow and develop, but children who live in low-income housing or are homeless may be at higher risk for participating in risky behaviors. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) developed the 4-H After School Club (ASC) to teach children basic life skills including math, reading, science, positive communication, goal setting, self-responsibility, decision-making and good nutrition. Youth who have these life skills are less likely to participate in risky behaviors.

Calming the Waters: Learning to Manage Western Water Conflict

Conflict has surrounded the Truckee, Carson and Walker River Basins for decades. Key issues include historical use on tribal lands, historical and current water rights, threats to water quality, and wildlife habitat protection. This program teaches youth about Nevada’s water issues and helps them develop the skills needed to address future water conflicts.

Engaged Leadership Program

Washoe County, Nevada, needed advanced training and skill building for the county’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) members to help them to participate effectively in local government issues that impact their communities. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension developed and implemented an Engaged Leadership program to assist chairpersons and CAB members in their efforts to create and sustain effective boards.

Family Storyteller Literacy Program

National award-winning Family Storyteller is a literacy program aimed at encouraging and training parents to play a vital role in the literacy development of their children. Developed by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE), KNPB-TV, the Washoe County libraries and Washoe County School District, the statewide program creates an opportunity for parents and young children to interact around literacy and language activities. Family Storyteller is designed especially for families that may have limited language skills and few children’s books at home.

Fun To Play

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Fun To Play program targets families where, due to the young age, inexperience or limited resources of the parents, young children are placed at-risk for developmental delays and later school difficulties. Fun To Play is a series of weekly infant/child sessions aimed at improving the parenting skills of young parents by increasing the amount of learning activities and interaction they provide their children.

Green Industry Training Programs of Northern Nevada

Green Industry Training (GIT) and Green Industry Continuing Education Series (GICES) are cost- and time-efficient approaches to serving the Green Industries of northern Nevada, including nursery workers, landscapers, arborists, irrigation and lawn care professionals. The Green Industry Training program begins in late winter with eight three-hour sessions of entry-level training for new industry workers, for those desiring to work in the industry and for existing industry professionals desiring a skills "tune-up." After "basic training," industry members are invited to monthly continuing education opportunities — one hour per month over the noon hour — to hone and improve their skills.

Grow Your Own, Nevada

Grow Your Own, Nevada is a statewide University of Nevada Cooperative Extension program designed to help people discover the secrets to gardening in our high-desert climate. The program includes eight two-hour weekly sessions. Classes are held live in Reno in the spring, summer and fall, and are provided by video conference to Cooperative Extension offices across the state.

Grow Yourself Healthy

Integrated Pest Management

Nevada Department of Agriculture’s records show the use of traditional pesticides continues to increase in the state. Nevada’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program helps agricultural producers, land managers; pest control operators, homeowners and other pest managers learn about and use alternative pest management strategies in a variety of environments and settings.

Living on the Land: Stewardship for Small Acreages


Living With Fire

Living with Fire is a comprehensive, multi-agency program aimed at teaching homeowners how to live more safely in high wildfire-hazard environments. The program, encompassing research and education, was developed in 1997 as a result of a collaboration between University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE), Nevada’s Agricultural Experiment Station and the Sierra Front Wildfire Cooperators, a group of 12 Nevada and California firefighting agencies.

Master Gardeners in Nevada

Master Gardeners provide free, research-based horticulture information to Nevadans. They are volunteers who learn advanced plant science skills from at least 50 hours of classroom instruction by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) professionals. After training, Master Gardeners volunteer a minimum of at least 50 hours a year to pass along their newly acquired knowledge through the media, talks and workshops. They answer phone calls, send out informational materials and develop community gardens.

NEMO Nevada, Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials

The NEMO (Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials) program was originated in Connecticut and has spread nationwide. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension offers the NEMO program in Washoe County. The premise is that improvements in land-use planning can result in protection of water resources, which can negate the need to fix problems after the fact by applying best management practices. The program will help land-use decision-makers understand the nature of the nonpoint source pollution problem and its impact on their lives, towns and natural resource base. This enables them to plan for growth and development while addressing water quality issues through educated land use decisions.

Noxious Weed Control and Awareness Education

Noxious and invasive weeds are widespread throughout Nevada. They threaten agricultural and rangeland productivity. Rural counties are susceptible to significant adverse economic damage. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension education programs help individuals and weed control organization reduce the abundance of noxious weeds.

Pick a better snack™ (formerly Chefs for Kids)

This evidence-based campaign focuses on building fruit and vegetable consumption in children through healthy snacking. Pick a better snack™ is a monthly, in-school nutrition education program for primary grade children in at-risk elementary schools in Clark and Washoe counties in Nevada. In addition to direct instruction, staff works with school wellness coordinators to build meaningful and sustainable programming to create a well environment in every school.

Small Steps 4 Big Changes

Parent involvement is recognized as a key factor in making wise food selections and shaping food and health behavior attitudes that affect the child’s habits and food preferences. Conducted in partnership with the 4-H Youth Development Program, a series of ten nutrition lessons incorporate recipe preparation, food sampling and physical activity segments, with additional nutrition education content for the parent or adult caregiver. All lesson segments are focused on thriving within a limited budget, as well as increasing fruit and vegetable intake. This program has been successfully offered to five Reno Housing Authority (RHA) and other 4-H After School Program sites since the initial launch of the pilot program. The program fosters behavior changes identified by the Centers for Disease Control as being linked to childhood obesity prevention.

Team Nutrition “Smart Choices”

This program strives to address the public health issue of childhood obesity through building basic skills related to food selection and promoting an increased variety of nutritious foods consumed especially vegetables and fruits.

Water Wise

Water Wise is a new, online educational program that complements University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s local watershed protection, storm water protection and land-use decision-maker education projects (NEMO-Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials).

Weed Warriors Invasive Weed Training

The Weed Warriors Invasive Weed Training Program is held several times a year, usually in late winter or spring. This eight-hour, two-day introductory-level training introduces participants to the principles of Integrated Weed Management and focuses on improving ability to identify noxious weeds of local importance. A small fee is charged for program materials, and the class can be videoconferenced to other locations upon request. Each year, several dozen people go through the training and become certified Weed Warriors. Pesticide applicators receive six Continuing Education Credits for attending this course. Each year in May during a community event in the Truckee Meadows, Weed Warrior volunteers help rid parks and riverfront areas of invasive thistles.

Statewide Programs *Statewide programs may not be available in all counties

Programs Program Information
4-H Youth Development
Beef Quality Assurance
Cattlemen’s Update
Food Safety Project
Herds and Harvest
Invasive Species (Weeds)
Nevada Radon Education Program
Nevada State GEAR UP
Nevada Youth Range Camp
People of the Land
Pesticide Safety Education Program
Riparian and Watershed Assessment and Management
Risk Management
Stronger Economies Together
Unmanned Aerial Systems
Weed Prevention and Management