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Mountain City is located on State Route 225, approximately sixteen miles south of the Idaho border. Mountain City is situated on the Owyhee River at an elevation of approximately 5,620 feet. The community hazard assessment resulted in classifying Mountain City in the High Hazard category (61 points). A summary of the factors that contributed to the hazard rating is included in Table 16-3. The primary factors that contributed to the rating were inadequate signage, inadequate defensible space, and potentially hazardous fire behavior. The community boundary identified for this report is shown in Figure 16-1.
Mountain City has a classic wildland-urban interface condition. There is a clear line of demarcation between structures and wildland fuels. Of the 31 homes included in the assessment, 25 are on lots of less than one acre and six are on lots of one to ten acres.
Eighty-four percent of the homes observed in the interface area are built with non-combustible or highly fire resistant siding materials such as medium density fiberboard. Ninety-four percent of the homes have fire resistant roofing materials such as composition roofing, metal, or tile. Twenty-six percent of the homes have unenclosed porches, decks, or balconies that create drafts and provide areas where sparks and embers can lodge, smolder, ignite, and rapidly spread fire to the house.
Sixty-eight percent of the homes observed in the interface meet the minimum recommended defensible space requirement to help protect the home from damage or loss during a wildfire.
The Mountain City Volunteer Fire Department, staffed by four volunteers, provides fire protection in Mountain City. Table 16-1 lists the types of local wildfire resources, cooperating partners, and equipment available for initial response to Mountain City 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 2 Engine||1||Mountain City VFD
|Type 6 Engine
||1||US Forest Service
|Type 2 Engine
Type 1 Water Tender
|Nevada Division of Forestry
|Source: Sam Hicks, Nevada Division of Forestry Elko County Prevention Captain; Tom Turk, Nevada Division of Forestry Northern Region Battalion Chief; Melody Asher, US Forest Service Zone FMO.|
Water available for fire suppression in Mountain City includes hydrants within 500 feet of structures; the minimum flow for these hydrants is 500 gallons per minute, operated by gravity flow into the tank from four springs at a rate of approximately 60 gpm. From one 150,000-gallon water storage tank, a single hydrant at the bottom of the hill is capable of 2,000 gpm. The Owyhee River and local ponds can be used as helicopter dip spots or draft sites.
The Mountain City volunteers have received training from the Nevada Division of Forestry and cooperating agencies to meet the minimum National Wildfire Coordinating Group basic wildland standards.
The Mountain City VFD responded to three calls in 2003:
The vegetative fuel density in the Mountain City interface area is generally moderate, estimated at two to four tons per acre. The fuel hazard is low along the river corridor, but increases to a high hazard elsewhere within the community due to slope and aspect. Fuels in the community consist primarily of shrubs one to four feet high that include sagebrush and rabbitbrush, with ground fuels of basin wildrye, lupine, cheatgrass, and perennial grasses. Cheatgrass growth is dependent on annual moisture and will produce increased fuel volumes and elevate fuel hazard conditions in years of higher than average precipitation. Riparian areas along the Owyhee River are predominantly meadow grasses, willows, and sagebrush. Fuel hazard mapping is shown in Figure 16-2. Fuel hazard photo points are shown in Figure 16-3. The terrain within the community boundary is gently sloping from eight to twenty percent, with a west aspect. The prevailing wind direction is south/southwest. There is a history of afternoon thunderstorms and dry lightning strikes in the area.
The worst-case scenario for a wildfire in the area surrounding Mountain City would come from a dry lightning storm late on a summer afternoon during a year of normal to above normal precipitation and high annual grass and forb production. Multiple fire ignitions in the area would spread firefighting resources thin. High erratic winds would push fires into the community.
Mountain City has a high ignition risk based on fire history in the area and the potential for increased fuel loading from annual grasses in high precipitation years. There is an extensive wildfire history in the public lands surrounding the community and a history of lightning strikes around the community. The primary risk of ignition in Mountain City 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, businesses, and local governments. The recommendations for the Mountain City area focus primarily on the ongoing and additional efforts to create and maintain defensible space and the community coordination and public education efforts that could be undertaken to enhance fire safety.
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.
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, equipment, and hay storage areas according to the guidelines in Appendix E.
Maintain the defensible space annually.
|Community Coordination||Ensure residential 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 community fire safety.
|Mountain City VFD
and Nevada Division of Forestry
|Fire Suppression Resources||Continue to meet annually with the cooperating agencies to review pre-attack plans and test radio compatibility.
Upgrade the VFD radio system to narrow band technology to ensure proper communication compatibility.
Upgrade fire suppression apparatus.
|Public Education||Distribute copies of the publication “Living With Fire” to all property owners.|
Mountain City Wildfire Hazard Rating Summary
Mountain City Fire History and Suppression Resources
Mountain City Classification of Fuel Hazard
Photo Point 1. 4632453N, 586093E, 060°NE. Mountain City ground fuels include cheatgrass, basin wildrye, lupine, and perennial grasses. The shrub layer is rabbitbrush and sagebrush that is one to four feet high, with a fuel loading density of one to two tons an acre.
Photo Point 2. 4632183N, 585967E, 070°NE. Perennial grasses on steep slopes add to the hazard in the community if they are not mowed or grazed to reduce biomass.