Resource Concepts, Inc.
Celebrating 31 Years 1978-2009
Engineering • Surveying • Resources & Environmental Services
Jiggs is a small community located approximately thirty miles south of Elko on State Route 228 in western Elko County. Jiggs is situated at an elevation of approximately 5,500 feet at the sound end of Smith Creek. The community hazard assessment resulted in classifying Jiggs/Smith Creek in the Extreme Hazard category (79 points). A summary of the factors that contributed to the hazard rating is included in Table 6-3. The extreme rating is attributed to limited access, inadequate defensible space, and the potential for extreme fire behavior. The community boundary identified for this report is shown in Figure 6-1.
The interface area around Jiggs/Smith Creek is an intermix condition. Structures are scattered throughout the community with no clear line of demarcation between structures and wildland fuels. Twelve of the fourteen homes included in this assessment are on parcels larger than ten acres in size and two homes are on parcels less than one acre in size.
All of the homes observed in the interface area are built with non-combustible or highly fire resistant siding materials such as medium density fiberboard. All but one of the homes observed have fire resistant roofing materials such as composition roofing, metal, or tile. Half of the homes have unenclosed porches, decks, or balconies that create drafts and provide areas where sparks and embers can be trapped, smolder, ignite, and rapidly spread fire to the house.
About half of the homes observed in the interface do not meet the minimum recommended defensible space requirement to help protect the home from damage or loss during a wildfire.
Fire protection for the Jiggs/Smith Creek community is provided by the Jiggs Volunteer Fire Department. The Jiggs VFD is staffed by nine wildland fire trained volunteers, three emergency medical technicians, and five first responders. Additional Fire Department resources are available through the Elko Fire Department and the Spring Creek and Ten Mile Volunteer Fire Departments. Table 6-1 lists the types of local wildfire resources and equipment available for initial response to Jiggs/Smith Creek in the event of a reported wildfire. Additional resources are available from local, state, and federal agencies through mutual aid agreements as described in Section 4.1.1.
|Type of Equipment||Amount of Equipment||Cooperating Partner
|Type 3 Engine
Type 6 Engines
|Type 2 Engine||1||Spring Creek VFD
|Type 4 Engine||1||Ten Mile VFD
|Type 4 Engine||1||Bureau of Land Management
(Elko Field Office)
|Source: Sam Hicks, Nevada Division of Forestry Elko County Prevention Captain; Frank Zaga, Jiggs/Smith Creek VFD Chief.|
Water available for fire suppression in Jiggs/Smith Creek is limited to the nearby creeks and ponds. There are two livestock ponds in the area and each holds about 10,000 gallons. The fire suppression trucks are equipped with draft pumps. In the past, helicopters have dipped from the livestock ponds as well as beaver ponds in the nearby mountains. Current plans include installation of a dry hydrant near the Jiggs fire station.
All Jiggs VFD firefighters have been trained in-house for structure protection and have received training from the Nevada Division of Forestry and cooperating agencies to meet the minimum National Wildfire Coordinating Group basic wildland standards.
In a typical year, the Jiggs VFD responds to the following annual calls:
Jiggs Volunteer fire Department is in the process of developing emergency plans for each home in the community.
The terrain within the community boundary is gently rolling. The primary aspects are to the west and south. The dominant wind is from the south and southwest. Fuel loading in the interface area varies from two to six tons per acre, and was considered a moderate to extreme fuel hazard as shown in Figure 6-2. The fuel type northeast of the community consists of broom snakeweed, sagebrush, bitterbrush, and rabbitbrush. The shrub layer was estimated to be four to eight feet tall. Ground fuels include basin wildrye, wheatgrasses, and cheatgrass. The shrubs are densely spaced. The fuels in the central and west portions consist of sagebrush and rabbitbrush two to three feet tall with cheatgrass and basin wildrye ground fuels. Adjacent to Smith Creek, the fuels are dominated by basin wildrye and cheatgrass, with some rabbitbrush. The fuels are continuous and in close proximity to structures. Fuel hazard photo points are shown in Figure 6-3.
The worst-case scenario for a wildfire in the area surrounding Jiggs/Smith Creek would start southwest of the homes located in Smith Creek. A fire burning north along the west side of the Ruby Mountains would quickly threaten the larger custom houses and ranches in the Smith Creek area. The vegetation on the west facing aspect varies from pasture grasses to sagebrush six to eight feet tall. If a fire started downslope from the homes, the occupants could be forced to shelter-in-place because access routes would be blocked by fire.
Jiggs/Smith Creek has a high risk of ignition based on fire history in the area and the potential for increased fuel loading from annual grasses in high precipitation years. The primary risk of ignition in Jiggs/Smith Creek is lightning, unattended or improperly extinguished campfires, and vehicle activity on the highway.
The XJ Ranch, located approximately 25 miles south of Jiggs, is a summer youth camp with approximately 100 seasonal residents. The ranch receives fire protection from the Jiggs Volunteer Fire Department, located approximately 45 to 60 minutes from the ranch. Additional resources are available by request from the Bureau of Land Management Elko Field Office, the Nevada Division of Forestry, and the US Forest Service. Water available for fire suppression near the XJ Ranch includes one dry hydrant that can be filled from the ranch pond. The pond can also be used as a helicopter dip site. The buildings have wood shake roofs, which provide places where sparks and embers can lodge, smolder, ignite, and rapidly spread fire to the structure.
The vegetative fuel density in the XJ Ranch area is generally heavy, estimated at five to six tons per acre. Fuels in the community consist of a pinyon-juniper tree layer, and a shrub layer of sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and bitterbrush up to five feet high. Understory fuels consist of perennial grasses and some crested wheatgrass. The terrain within the community boundary is moderately sloped with a west aspect. The prevailing wind direction is south or west. There is a history of afternoon thunderstorms and dry lightning strikes in the area and an extensive wildfire history in the public lands surrounding the community.
The XJ Ranch has a high risk of ignition based on fire history in the area, topography, and fuels. The primary risk of ignition at the ranch is lightning, although human caused ignitions are unpredictable and can occur at any time.
The responsibility to keep a community fire safe falls not only on the local fire protection district but also on the residents and local governments. The recommendations for the Jiggs/Smith Creek area focus primarily on the ongoing and additional efforts to create and maintain defensible space, and on future requirements that new developments will be planned and constructed to create fire safe communities. Other recommendations pertain to community coordination and public education efforts that could be undertaken to enhance fire safety. Defensible space treatments, listed below, are also recommended for implementation around structures at the XJ Ranch and youth camp.
Defensible space treatments are an essential first line of defense for residential structures. The goal of the treatments is to significantly reduce or remove flammable vegetation within a prescribed distance from structures. (Refer to Appendix E for the minimum recommended defensible space area). Defensible space reduces the fire intensity and improves firefighter and homeowner chances for successfully defending a structure against oncoming wildfire.
Fuel reduction treatments are applied on a larger scale than defensible space treatments. Permanently changing the fuel characteristics over large blocks of land to one of a lower volume and one of altered distribution reduces the risk of a catastrophic wildfire in the treated area. Reducing vegetation along roadways and driveways could reduce the likelihood of blocking access and escape routes, help contain the fire perimeter, and improve firefighter access and safety for protecting homes.
Nevada Fire Safe Council
210 South Roop Street Suite 101
Carson City, NV 89701
A public education program that explains fire safe measures in clear and emphatic terms will have an impact on residents of the wildland-urban interface. Informed community members will be more inclined to make efforts to effectively reduce wildfire hazards around their homes and neighborhoods.
|Involved Party||Recommended Treatment||Recommendation Description|
|Defensible Space||Remove, reduce, and replace vegetation around homes according to the guidelines in Appendix E.
Maintain the defensible space annually.
|Community Coordination||Ensure addresses are easily visible from the road.
Form a local community-based organization to provide leadership and be responsible for community-wide fuels reduction and fire safety.
|XJ Ranch||Fuels Reduction||Clear vegetation a minimum width of fifty feet on both sides of the driveway into the ranch.
Construct a shaded fuelbreak for an additional 100 feet on both sides of the driveway by thinning pinyon and junipers to a minimum canopy spacing of two times the height of the trees. Create turnout areas every 600 feet along the main driveway.
|Utility Company||Fuels Reduction||Reduce and remove vegetation to maintain clearance around power lines. Clear vegetation within fifteen feet of utility poles near the community. Remove all trees from beneath power lines.|
Nevada Division of Forestry
|Fuels Reduction||Coordinate with residents to construct a fuelbreak along Smith Creek Road. Mow grasses to maximum height of four inches and remove all shrubs and trees within twenty feet from the edge of the road on both sides of the road. Thin shrubs an additional thirty feet on each side of the road to a canopy spacing of two times the height of the shrubs.|
|Fire Suppression Resources||Continue to provide wildland fire training and equipment for all volunteers.
Upgrade VFD radios with narrow band technology to ensure communication compatibility with cooperating agencies.
Install a minimum capacity 10,000-gallon water tank in the community for drafting water.
If available, move additional resources into the area on high hazard days or ensure adequate volunteer resources for high hazard days.
|Community Coordination||Develop an evacuation plan for the XJ Ranch and youth camp.
Assure that residents of the Jiggs/Smith Creek Community and the operators of the XJ Ranch are knowledgeable of the existing shelter-in-place plan.
Develop an evacuation plan that identifies routes of travel, shelter in place areas, and individuals with needs for special assistance such as non-ambulatory residents.
Develop and enforce brush clearance and biomass disposal programs.
Continue to meet annually with the cooperating agencies to discuss pre-attack plans for the community.
|Elko County||Fuels Reduction||Reduce vegetation and maintain roads by mowing all vegetation to a height of no more than four inches for a distance of twenty feet from the edge of the road on both sides of the road. Remove biomass and dispose of it at an appropriate site.|
|Community Coordination||Promote cooperation between the Assessor’s Office and the Roads Department to ensure that all new development roads are named, mapped, signed, and identified with GPS locations.
Continue to require all future development in the county to meet the National Fire Codes with regard to community design, building construction and spacing, road construction and design, water supply and emergency access. Refer to Appendix F for an example of fire safe recommendations for planning new developments.
|Jiggs VFD||Public Education||Distribute copies of the publication “Living With Fire” to all property owners.|
Jiggs/Smith Creek Wildfire Hazard Rating Summary
Jiggs/Smith Creek Fire History, Suppression Resources, Critical Features, and Proposed Mitigation Projects
Jiggs/Smith Creek Classification of Fuel Hazard
Photo Point 1. 4481264N, 620043E, 190°SW. Extreme fuel loading in Smith Creek. Some homes are in close proximity to high fuel hazard conditions. The shrub layer is sagebrush, bitterbrush, broom snakeweed, and rabbitbrush; the ground fuels are basin wildrye, wheatgrasses, bluegrasses, needlegrasses, and cheatgrass. Fuel loading is estimated at five to six tons per acre.
Photo Point 2. 4481274N, 621369E, 100°SE. Smith Creek community overlooking Smith Creek to the west. The narrow road and lack of roadside clearance raise concerns for evacuation during a wildfire if the road were to become blocked.