Resource Concepts, Inc.
Celebrating 31 Years 1978-2009
Engineering • Surveying • Resources & Environmental Services
In 2003, Resource Concepts, Inc. completed an assessment entitled “Community Fire Safe Plan for the Holbrook Junction Community Douglas County, Nevada,” on behalf of the Nevada Fire Safe Council. The pertinent information for this report is summarized from the RCI Holbrook Junction assessment.
The Holbrook Junction Community is located at Holbrook Junction where US Highway 395 intersects State Route 208, approximately sixteen miles south of Gardnerville, Nevada and two miles north of Topaz Lake. Much of the area surrounding the community is public land administered by the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Affairs 99-year leases held in trust by the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California. Approximately fifty residences were evaluated when the risk and hazard assessment was conducted for Holbrook Junction. The assessment resulted in classifying the Holbrook Junction community in the High Hazard category (adapted from RCI 2003). The primary hazard factors for the Holbrook Junction area were limited address signage on some residences and limited implementation of defensible space throughout the community.
The Holbrook Junction interface area is characterized by the intermix wildland-urban interface condition. Structures are scattered throughout the wildland area with no clear line of demarcation between wildland fuels and residences in the community. A majority of the homes assessed were on parcels between 2.5 and ten acres with the exception of a small trailer park (see Figure 14-1).
A great majority of the homes in the community were built with fire-resistant roofing materials such as composition roofing, metal, or tile. Most of the homes observed had Class C wood siding materials (burns in less than twenty minutes). Less than twenty percent of homes observed had unenclosed balconies, porches, decks or other architectural features that create drafts and provide areas where sparks and firebrands can be trapped, smolder, ignite, and rapidly spread fire to the home.
Approximately 25 percent of the homes assessed had landscaping that meets the minimum defensible space requirement to help protect the home from damage or loss during a wildfire. In Holbrook Junction the recommended minimum defensible space distance ranged between 100 and 200 feet depending upon slope.
Both the East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts Topaz Ranch Estates Volunteer Fire Department Station 4 (a combination career/volunteer station with two career members) and the Topaz Lake Volunteer Fire Department Station 5 provide wildland and structure fire protection to Holbrook Junction. The Topaz Ranch Estates VFD responded to 213 emergency calls in 2001. Station 4 actively conducts “Compost your Combustibles” and reflective address sign programs (East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts website). See Tables 4-2 and 4-3 for more information on the typical fire suppression response for first-alarm wildland-urban interface fires in Douglas County. Appendix E lists the type and number of fire suppression vehicles located at each EFFPD and Douglas County VFD station.
The Interagency wildland fire resources will also respond to all wildland fire reports within the vicinity of the Holbrook Junction community. The response will be initiated by the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center.
Water availability for fire suppression in Holbrook Junction includes two, static 50,000-gallon tanks: one near the junction of US Highway 395 and Leviathan Mine Road in the Spring Valley/Double Springs community (five miles north), and the other near Penrod Lane in the Holbrook Junction Community. The tanks are not connected to wells and must be filled each fire season. No fire hydrants are available in the Holbrook Junction community. Two tanks on wells are also located in Topaz Ranch Estates including one 210,000-gallon tank and one 660,000-gallon tank (three miles east). Hydrants are also available at Topaz Lodge, approximately three miles south of Holbrook Junction. Topaz Lake may be used as a helicopter dip site and drafting source (approximately six mile round trip).
The Holbrook Junction community formed a local chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council in October of 2003. There is currently no evacuation plan for residents of the community, nor do the emergency and disaster plans provide information on safe zones within the community.
Vegetation, dead and down fuels, and topographic features contribute to the potential fire hazard around wildland-urban interface communities. The fuel hazards were mapped for Holbrook Junction and fuel hazard photos were taken to provide additional information for the vegetation type descriptions (see Figures 14-2 and 14-3).
The majority of the terrain is gently sloping (less than eight percent slope) with steeper slopes greater than twenty percent on the west side of the community. The predominant winds are from the west and southwest, and downslope winds are common, especially in the late afternoon during the summer months. Numerous fires have occurred within the vicinity of the community from both human and lightning causes. The 9,283-acre Gate Complex Fire occurred south of the community in 2002. A 7,443-acre fire occurred northeast of the community in 1996 and a 307-acre fire and the sixteen-acre Wildoat Fire occurred east of the community in 1994. Numerous other fires have occurred south of the community between 1950 and 1975.
The predominant vegetation in the community is characterized by a pinyon pine overstory with an understory of big sagebrush, bitterbrush, needlegrass, bottlebrush squirreltail, cheatgrass, and various forbs. The pinyon pines were generally twenty feet in height with tree canopies spaced less than ten feet apart. The pinyon pine woodlands were considered a high to extreme fuel hazard. In the southeast portion of the community, sagebrush and crested wheatgrass are the dominant species. In this area of the community the fuel hazard was considered moderate.
Several fuel reduction projects have been conducted within and adjacent to the Holbrook Junction community (Figure 14-4). The US Forest Service has installed a fifty to 100-foot wide firebreak adjacent to a 900-foot wide shaded fuelbreak on National Forest lands abutting the south side of the community. The trees and shrubs were removed using mechanical mastication equipment. The Forest Service also installed a 300-foot wide fuelbreak along the north perimeter of the community and two fuel treatment areas where trees were thinned to a spacing of thirty feet between canopies.
Projects funded through the Nevada Division of Forestry Forest Stewardship Program and the Stewardship Incentive Cost-Share Program in the Holbrook Junction community in 2002 treated 27 parcels for defensible space to varying degrees depending upon homeowner preference. The treatments included thinning, removing lower limbs of trees, diseased trees, shrubs, and other ladder fuels.
In 2004, a Nevada Division of Forestry grant provided funding to complete the first half of a shaded fuelbreak on the west side of the Holbrook Junction community (10.5 acres). A Great Basin Institute hand crew constructed the shaded fuelbreak by thinning trees to approximately 40 trees per acre and hand grubbing about 60 percent of the brush for a width of 150 feet. Slash from the fuel reduction was chipped onsite and transported to the Spring Valley/Double Springs community fuels disposal site.
The Bureau of Land Management has provided funding to finish the west side shaded fuelbreak in the fall of 2005. The US Forest Service has given permission for temporary slash disposal on a parcel adjacent to the community. Other planned treatments for 2005 include additional fuel reduction along interior roads and adjacent to US Hwy 395.
The worst-case scenario for a wildland fire in the Holbrook Junction community would involve a wind-driven wildland fire ignited south of the community on the east-facing slope. If the fire were to occur in the mid-afternoon on a high hazard day with south or southwest winds in excess of 25 miles per hour, the fire would likely burn northward and quickly threaten residences in the community. Due to the high fuel loads and fuel bed continuity, extreme fire behavior could be exhibited under high wind speed conditions. The scenario would be worse if East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts resources were unavailable due to assignment to an emergency situation elsewhere.
Holbrook Junction has a high ignition risk rating. A significant history of wildfire and fire ignitions exists in the public lands and private lands surrounding the community. High ignition rates are likely due to the high fuel loads in and around the community, the tendency for lightning storms during the summer, and the number of people using the wildlands near Holbrook Junction.
The Holbrook Junction risk and hazard reduction recommendations focus on improving defensible space and promoting homeowner responsibilities. Other recommendations pertain to community coordination efforts that could be initiated to enhance the fire safe nature of the Holbrook Junction community. Recommendations are detailed below.
Implement defensible space according to the vegetation type surrounding the structure. Refer to Appendix D for specific defensible space recommendations.
Proper maintenance, storage, and acquisition of fire suppression equipment along with regular and appropriate firefighter training increases fire suppression capability for those areas where fire protection is available.
Fuel reduction treatments are applied on a larger scale than defensible space treatments. By permanently changing the fuel structure over large blocks of land to one of a lower volume or reduced flammability (a fuel reduction treatment), the expected result in the event of a catastrophic wildfire would be one of reduced capacity for uncontrolled spread through the treatment area. Construct shaded fuelbreaks in the locations indicated in Figure 14-2 according to the specifications listed below.
Many of the most effective activities aimed at reducing the threat of wildfire for the Holbrook community require that individual property owners coordinate with each other and with local fire authorities. Address signage and defensible space, for example, are more effective in communities when applied uniformly throughout entire neighborhoods. Public education and awareness, neighbors helping neighbors, and proactive individuals setting examples for others to follow are just a few of the approaches that will be necessary to meet the fire safe goals in the community. Disposal of biomass generated from defensible space and fuel reduction treatments can sometimes be most efficiently handled through community programs.
|Involved Party||Recommended Treatment||Recommendation Description|
|Property Owners||Defensible Space||Remove, reduce, and replace vegetation around homes to create defensible space.|
|Fire Suppression Capability||Retrofit driveways and create adequate turnarounds or horseshoe driveways to improve access for firefighting equipment.|
|Fuels Reduction||Remove all trees within a minimum distance of thirty feet of each side of the driveway. Reduce fuels within 100 feet of each side of private driveways within the community.
Coordinate with the local fire suppression agencies to install proposed fuel reduction treatments.
|Community Coordination||Post addresses that are clearly visible from the road on all homes within the community.
Increase wildfire issue awareness through distribution of the Holbrook Junction Community Fire Safe Plan, community newsletters, publications, and public awareness meetings.
|Utility Company||Fuels Reduction||Remove pinyon and juniper trees within fifteen feet of either side of power lines and poles throughout the Holbrook Junction community.|
|East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts||Fire Suppression Capability||Coordinate with the Nevada Division of Forestry to seasonally station an additional wildfire engine and crew at Station #4 (Topaz Ranch Estates VFD).|
|Nevada Fire Safe Council
|Fuels Reduction||Complete construction of the 150-foot wide shaded fuelbreak on the west side of the community.|
|Douglas County Roads Department||Fire Suppression Capability||Coordinate with the affected landowners to construct and maintain the approved road (Shelby Lane) between Reese and Penrod Lanes to improve emergency evacuation and firefighter access.|
|East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts||Fuels Reduction||Coordinate with private landowners to construct and maintain shaded fuelbreaks and fuel reduction treatments throughout the community.
Coordinate with Douglas County to revise annual road maintenance plans to include removal and thinning of overhanging vegetation within county road right-of-ways.
Holbrook Junction Planned and Partially Completed Mitigation Projects (RCI 2002)
Holbrook Junction Fuel Hazard Classification
Photo Point 1. Holbrook Junction Fuel Hazard Photo Point. 4288739N, 0276959E, 12°N. The extreme hazard pinyon pine/sagebrush/bitterbrush and moderate hazard sagebrush/crested wheatgrass vegetation types are the main fuel types identified in the Holbrook Junction community.
Photo Point 2. Holbrook Junction Fuel Hazard Photo Point. 4289084N, 0277140E, 90°E. South of the community, the US Forest Service has installed a 100-foot wide firebreak adjacent to a 900-foot wide shaded fuelbreak. The firebreak is dominated by lupine, bottlebrush squirreltail, and cheatgrass and was considered a low fuel hazard.
Holbrook Junction USFS and NDF Completed Mitigation Projects