NV Statewide Wildfire Assessment

Report figures for each high and
extreme risk community depicted
fuel hazard conditions in the
wildland-urban interface and locations
for fuel reduction recommendations.

GIS database information was used
to map key natural resource features,
fire suppression resources, ignition risk
factors, and complex community and
jurisdictional boundaries.

Nevada Statewide Wildfire Risk/Hazard Assessment Project

In 2004 and 2005, Resource Concepts, Inc. completed 239 wildfire risk and hazard assessments for communities-at-risk in all 17 Nevada counties, including several communities in the Lake Tahoe Basin. RCI was retained by the Nevada Fire Safe Council to compile existing data and collect additional data to assess wildfire hazards and risks in the wildland-urban interface. The project was funded through USDI Bureau of Land Management (BLM). A Technical Review Team of fire personnel from the US Forest Service, the BLM, Nevada Division of Forestry, Nevada Association of Counties, and the Nevada Fire Safe Council met with the RCI Project Manager, Sheila Anderson, at quarterly meetings to approve methodologies, provide local contact information, and monitor progress of this geographically extensive, long-term project.

RCI was the prime contractor for this project and managed four subcontractors including Gnomon, Inc. who assisted RCI with GIS services.

The project required extensive logistical planning and travel to obtain site-specific data from rural and remote communities. RCI fielded two community data collection teams consisting of a professional forester or rangeland ecologist (depending on the location), a fuels and fire behavior specialists, and resource technicians. RCI risk assessments included descriptions of vegetative fuels, estimates of fuel loads (tons/acre), and maps of fuel hazard conditions in the wildland/urban interface. The RCI Fire Specialist interviewed local fire agency personnel regarding fire behavior, fuel hazards, and suppression capabilities. An ignition risk rating of low, moderate, or high was assigned for each community based upon historical ignition patterns, local experience of fire agency personnel, and RCI field reconnaissance.

RCI resource technicians inventoried each home in the wildland-urban interface in each at-risk community for wildfire hazards including:

  • Accessibility
  • Street and address sign visibility
  • Ingress/egress
  • Lot size
  • Home construction
  • Flammable siding and roofing materials, and
  • Defensible space.

The Risk/Hazard Assessment also included development of wildfire mitigation recommendations specific to each community. Risk reduction recommendations were specifically directed to property owners, homeowner associations, and governmental organizations at city, county, state, and federal levels. Recommendations included:

  • Improvement and maintenance of defensible space,
  • Expansion of fire suppression capabilities (e.g. additional engines, fire fighter training, water tanks),
  • Community coordination activities (e.g. improve visibility of street signs, organize local fire awareness group, distribute wildfire awareness brochures),
  • Fuels reduction projects (e.g. fuelbreaks, greenstrips, seedings, brush thinning).

Throughout the duration of the project, RCI specialists researched information from public lands management agencies and other sources to include data on existing and planned fuel reduction treatments, past fire history, Memorandums of Understanding for fire suppression, roads, and community water sources and infrastructure.

Existing data from the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, the US Forest Service, the BLM, and the counties was compiled into MS Access and GIS databases. Field data for each community was used in a community assessment rating system to evaluate the overall community hazard condition using an objective scoring method that would allow direct comparison between communities statewide. Large databases were managed using external large capacity data storage hardware that, along with special data sharing agreements, enabled RCI and Gnomon to work on common databases, and facilitated information sharing between RCI and the participating agencies. At the end of the project, all updated databases and new databases were transferred back to the BLM and the Nevada Fire Safe Council in a manner that facilitated easy data retrieval and future updating.

Maps for each community were produced to display the proposed locations for fuels reduction treatments. Large posters of the assessment results and recommendations were then designed and distributed to each county for use during public meetings.

This project was an extensive effort and a successful partnership with state and federal agencies and local governments that made Nevada one of the few states to have completed Community Wildfire Protection Plans for all of the federally listed communities at-risk.

The countywide reports are available for review at www.rci-nv.com/reports.