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Wildfires highlight need for preparation in rural Nevada

Posted 8/28/2012

Ed Smith speaking to group.

Fire summit helps homeowners, firefighters prepare vital protection plans

The wildfires burning hundreds of thousands of acres throughout northern Nevada in recent weeks clearly shows once again that much of Nevada is a fire-prone environment capable of supporting intense and uncontrollable blazes.

According to University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Natural Resource Specialist Ed Smith, these fire-prone areas contain scores of individual homes and communities that aren’t prepared to survive wildfire. Smith said more than 170 communities in Nevada are rated as having extreme, high or moderate wildfire hazard, and 13,400 homes are situated in extreme and high wildfire hazard areas.

The inherent dangers of having so many homes located in such dangerous terrain prompted University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living With Fire program six years ago to sponsor the first Nevada Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Summit. The annual summit brings together members of Nevada’s high fire-hazard neighborhoods with the firefighting agencies responsible for protecting them to discuss how to lower the wildfire threat.

The summit, which will be held Oct. 1-2 this year at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, gives homeowners and firefighters a chance to compare notes, plan strategy and discuss in detail what they need to do to protect their neighborhoods from fire.

Research indicates that pre-fire activities performed by the homeowner — such as creating defensible space, removing pine needles from rain gutters, replacing wood shake roofs and screening vents — can significantly improve house survivability during wildfire.

The summit is an excellent opportunity for homeowners to learn what they can do. The event is free, but you do need to register by going to

The summit has continued to grow in popularity and reach since 2007. It also has been effective in helping Nevada communities reduce the wildfire threat. Based on the 2011 post-summit evaluation results, 97 percent of the community representatives had a better understanding of the wildfire threat to their community and they intended to take action when they return home.

One community participant stated, “Thanks to my participation in the 2011 WUI Summit, I now have the knowledge, tools and motivation to help myself, my family, my neighbors and my community.”

City of Reno Fire Marshal Joan Presley will serve as this year’s summit host with Fire Chief Jim Linardos presenting the keynote address. Linardos spent his career dealing with Nevada wildland-urban interface fire issues before accepting his current position as fire chief for Lake Travis Fire Rescue in Travis County, Texas.

A highlight of this year’s program will be a review of the Caughlin Fire from the eyewitness accounts of homeowners and firefighters. This discussion will be led by North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District Fire Chief and Caughlin Fire Incident Commander Mike Brown.

There are some limited travel assistance funds available to community members or volunteer fire departments that have to travel more than 50 miles one-way to attend the summit. Vendor exhibit space is still available. Contact Sonya Sistare at 775-336-0271 or go to

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