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 person cuts down a white fir tree which is growing next to a larger tree.

An example of a white fir acting like a ladder fuel. Photograph courtesy of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

 

Christmas tree hunting to me is a family affair, complete with hiking, laughter, sticky tree sap and of course, a fresh Christmas tree! However Christmas tree hunting isn’t only about finding the best tree for your home, but it’s also about reducing wildfire fuels and promoting forest health.

According to Anna Belle Monti, fuels forester with the U.S. Forest Service Humboldt – Toiyabe National Forest, Carson Ranger District, “Christmas tree cutting also serves an ecological purpose. These are the trees that act as ladder fuels to the larger trees. The public is actually assisting us in removing hazardous fuels from the forest as well.”

For those who don’t know, a ladder fuel is vegetation that can carry a fire from the smaller plants to the taller plants such as trees. If fire does move to the tops, or crowns of the larger trees, it could result in a high intensity, or catastrophic wildfire.

To help understand why removing white fir trees is good for forest health, Ed Smith, Cooperative Extension’s natural resource specialist and director of the Living With Fire Program explained, “The mixed conifer forest of the Sierra Nevadas experienced frequent, low-intensity fires prior to Euro-American settlement. With settlement of the area, fires were effectively excluded. This created conditions favorable to white fir establishment in the understory.”

Without these frequent forest thinning fires, there has been an increase in understory vegetation, such as grasses, shrubs and small tree growth. Many of these areas are now overstocked with young trees, particularly white fir, which makes the forest more vulnerable to drought, insect pests and disease. By reducing the number of trees growing so closely to each other, forest health can be improved. This is why obtaining a permit and cutting a Christmas tree can be good for the forest!

Interestingly enough, Christmas tree cutting is not restricted to the forest, but is also permitted on designated pinyon pine-juniper woodlands as well. Rules differ by agency, so be sure to adhere to the appropriate guidelines.

The following is a list of locations to purchase Christmas tree permits in Nevada:

Austin:
USFS – Austin Office
100 Midas Canyon Rd
Austin, NV
Mon. – Fri. 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-964-2671

Battle Mountain:
BLM- Battle Mountain District Office
50 Bastian Rd
Battle Mountain, NV 89820
Mon. – Fri. 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-635-4000

Carson City:         
BLM-Carson City District Office
5665 Morgan Mill Rd.
Carson City, NV 89701
Mon.-Fri. 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-885-6000

Cal Ranch (BLM permits)
2035 N. Carson St
Carson City, NV 89706
Mon.-Sat., 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Sun., 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
775-461-2213

USFS – Carson Ranger District Office
1536 S. Carson St.
Carson City, NV
Mon. – Fri. 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-882-2766

Elko:
BLM- Elko District
3900 Idaho St.
Elko, NV 89801
Mon. – Fri. 7:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-753-0200

USFS – Mountain City Office
660 S 12th St. Suite 108
Elko, NV
Mon. – Fri. 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-738-5171

Ely:
BLM- Ely District
702 North Industrial Way
Ely, NV 89301
Mon. – Fri. 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-289-1800

USFS – Ely Ranger District Office
825 Avenue E
Ely, NV
Mon. – Fri. 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-289-3031

Fallon:
UNR Cooperative Extension Office (BLM permits)
111 Sheckler Road
Fallon, NV
Mon.-Fri., 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
775-423-5121

Middlegate Station (Located 48 miles east of Fallon):
42500 U.S. Highway 50 (BLM permit)
7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., daily
775-423-7134

Cold Springs (Located 62 miles east of Fallon):
Cold Springs Station (BLM permit)
52500 U.S. Highway 50
8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., daily
775-423-1233

Gardnerville:
Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce (BLM permits)
1477 US Highway 395 North Suite A
Gardnerville, NV 89410
Mon.-Fri., 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
775-782-8144
(inside museum building)

Hawthorne:
Community Action Center (BLM permits)                     
924 5th St.
Hawthorne, NV 89415
Mon.-Fri., 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
775-945-2471

Lovelock:
Pershing County Farm Service Agency (BLM permits)
110 American Blvd
Lovelock, NV
Mon. – Fri. 7:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
775-273-2922

Montello:
Montello Post Office (BLM permits)
143 Front St.,
Montello, NV 89830
Mon. – Fri. 7:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m., 1:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Owyhee:
Our Grocery (USFS permits)
State Highway 225
Owyhee, NV
Mon. – Fri. 7:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Sat. – Sun.  8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
775-757-3301

Reno:
BLM-Nevada State Office-Reno
1340 Financial Blvd.
Reno, NV 89520-0006
Mon.-Fri., 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-861-6500

Galena Creek Visitor Center (BLM permits)
Mt Rose Highway, Reno, NV
Six miles up Mt Rose Highway from Highway 395/580
Fri.-Sun., 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
775-849-4948

Smith Valley:
Buckboard General Store (USFS permits)
160 Hwy 208
Smith Valley, NV
Mon. – Sat. 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Sunday: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
775-465-2289

Sparks:
USFS – Forest Supervisor’s Office
1200 Franklin Way
Sparks, NV
Mon. – Fri. 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-331-6444

Tonopah:
BLM- Tonopah Field Office
1553 South Main St.
Tonopah, NV 89049
775-482-7800
Mon. – Fri. 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

USFS – Tonopah Office
1400 S. Erie Main St.
Tonopah, NV
Mon. – Fri. 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-482-6286

Winnemucca:
BLM- Winnemucca District
5100 E. Winnemucca Blvd.
Winnemucca, NV 89801
Mon. – Fri. 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-623-1500

Wells:
Wells Forest Service Office (BLM & USFS permits)
140 Pacific Ave.
Wells, NV 89835
Mon. – Fri. 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
775-752-3357

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.

Elements of a Fire Adapted CommunityHaving spent the majority of my life in Nevada, I’ve seen my share of wildfires. Growing up, I remember helping my father pick the weeds from the common area behind our house to improve our defensible space and even preparing items at home for an evacuation. Before starting with the Living With Fire Program, this is what I thought wildfire preparedness entailed. Since then, I’ve learned that there are five categories of actions to help residents prepare for wildfire. Those categories include: Access, Built Environment, Community Protection, Defensible Space and Evacuation. One easy way to remember these elements is to just remember your “ABCs and Ds and Es!”

Access: This is how you and emergency services get in and out of your community.  Some examples of proper access in your community include:  local fire services have key access to your gated driveways, long driveways or dead-end roads have enough room for emergency vehicles to turn around, your home’s address is readily visible from the street, there is at least a 13 ½-foot vertical clearance for your driveway, and that there are at least two ways out of the community.

Built Environment: The maintenance of a home and the manner in which it is built can improve the odds of a home surviving a wildfire. Maintaining a deck and how a deck is built is one example of the built environment. For example, it’s recommended to keep all deck materials in good condition and to consider using fire-resistant-rated materials. Residents should habitually check the deck for combustible debris (pine needles, leaves, twigs and weeds) under the deck and between deck boards. They should also consider enclosing the sides of the deck and to not store combustible materials under it.

Community Protection: Two ways to improve your community’s protection is via fuel breaks and community safe areas. A fuel break is a strip of land that has had highly flammable vegetation removed to reduce the wildfire threat. A safe area is a designated spot within a community where residents can stay to wait out the wildfire. Examples of safe areas include: ball fields, irrigated pastures, parks and parking lots.

Defensible Space: This is the area between a home and an oncoming wildfire where the vegetation was managed to reduce the wildfire threat and allow firefighters to safely defend the home. An effective defensible space includes knowing the proper distance for vegetation management, removing dead vegetation, thinning dense trees and shrubs, removing ladder fuels, and creating a “Lean, Clean, and Green” area around the house.

Evacuation: Residents should prepare for evacuation long before a wildfire occurs. This includes developing a family evacuation plan, assembling a To-Go bag, and knowing what to wear and take when evacuating.

I only reviewed a small portion of this information. For more in-depth information regarding these five categories, please view “Fire Adapted Communities: The Next Step in Wildfire Preparedness” here.  I urge all residents to check out this great publication and to prepare for wildfire.

Headshot of JamieJamie 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.

Landscape in front of a Northern Nevada Home.

Landscape in front of a Northern Nevada Home. Photograph Courtesy of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension

As the weather warms up, I look forward to following those defensible space suggestions made by Nevada Division of Forestry’s Fire Protection Officer Chanse Hunwardsen (to view the video click here). My neighbors (who also have received defensible space inspections) and I collaboratively decided to hire a landscaper to perform work on a group of homes, which will be less costly than if I were to pay a contractor to perform work on only my house.

Since I have little experience with landscapers, I looked on the Nevada State Contractors Board (NSCB) website for suggestions. There, I found a pamphlet on how individuals can choose the right landscaper at: http://www.nscb.nv.gov/landscaping_guide.html

Here is some interesting information that I found:

Why hire a licensed landscaper contractor?

  • Licensed contractors have passed trade and business law exams.
  • They are required to keep a surety bond and carry workman’s compensation insurance.
  • If damages occur, the Residential Recovery Fund is available for homeowners who conduct business with licensed contractors and is not available to those who hire an unlicensed contractor.

The following may require a landscape contractor:

  • Installing rocks, sand or gravel, non-engineered decorative landscape ponds, landscape retaining walls no taller than 3 feet.
  • Landscape irrigation installation.
  • Planting trees, shrubs or other vegetation.
  • Laying sod or hydroseeding.

When it’s OK to NOT to use a licensed landscape contractor:

  • Mowing/edging lawns.
  • Cleaning up/hauling debris.
  • Removing and trimming trees and shrubs. (Seek assistance from a certified arborist)
  • Thatching or aerating lawns.

To ensure that a landscaper is licensed, ask to view their contractor’s pocket ID card and obtain their NSCB license number. This number can be verified on the NSCB website or by calling their office. For more information regarding payment, writing a contract and Nevada’s Residential Recovery Fund, check out this link http://www.nscb.nv.gov/landscaping_guide.html

Keep in mind, when replacing plants in your landscape be sure to view the publication, “Choosing the Right Plants”.

As for choosing the right landscaper for our project, I’ll take this information to my neighbors and we all can make an informed decision.

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.

Evacuate Landing

So often we think of wildfires in terms of how many acres burned, or which roads are closed. But for some, those caught it the middle, it’s more a matter of ensuring that their loved ones and pets are accounted for, what to take and what must be left behind. To help residents prepare for such emergencies, this years’ Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month theme can help. It is: Wildfire! Prepare. Anticipate. Evacuate. I’ve prepared myself in some areas and need work in others. The following is how I interpret the theme, what I’ve prepared and what else I need to work on.

PREPARE.

To me, preparing for wildfire is an ongoing process that I’m still working on. I have completed a home inventory of my belongings. To view three inventory options that I tried and wrote about in a former blog, click here. I continually work to complete my defensible space inspection recommendations. View my defensible space inspection video here.  And I know that I need to create a family evacuation plan suited for my family’s needs.

ANTICIPATE.

To anticipate wildfire, I usually monitor the National Weather Service for Red Flag Warnings and check the local fire department/district’s social media accounts for fire updates. I also need to update my family to-go bag to include items for ALL of my family members as we’ve gained a new one recently. You can find tips for what to include on page 16 of our publication found here. Finally I need to assemble a Disaster Supply Kit. I found tips on how to assemble a kit here.

EVACUATE.

During a wildfire, I need to be able to evacuate quickly and safely when asked. This will be possible because I have prepared and anticipated wildfire. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but it is imperative to complete.

To view a powerful video of one family’s experience during a wildfire, click here  and be sure to PREPARE for wildfire, ANTICIPATE wildfire conditions and evacuation needs, and EVACUATE quickly and safely when asked during a wildfire.

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.