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Pilot Valley is located in eastern Elko County north of Interstate 80 and east of State Route 233 near the Nevada-Utah state line. Pilot Valley is situated between the Toano and Pilot Mountain Ranges. Pilot Creek flows through the valley, along with several small drainages originating in the mountains. This community hazard assessment classifies Pilot Valley in the Moderate Hazard category (60 points). A summary of the factors contributing to this hazard rating is provided in Table 31-3. Primary factors include inadequate signage, inadequate defensible space, and topographical features conducive to dangerous fire behavior. The community boundary identified for this report is shown in Figure 31-1.
The community of scattered ranches and homes in Pilot Valley are within an intermix condition wildland-urban interface. Ranches and homes are on parcels of two and one-half to forty acres. Structures and wildland fuels are scattered throughout the community, with no clear separation between wildland fuels and developed parcels. Seventy-seven homes were included in the assessment. Fifty of the homes are on parcels of one to ten acres in size; 27 are on lots of ten acres or more.
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 siding. All of the homes have fire resistant roofing made of composition materials, metal, or tile. About one-third 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.
Sixty-nine percent of the homes observed do not meet the minimum defensible space requirement recommended to help protect the home from damage or loss during a wildfire.
Pilot Valley is included in the Tecoma Township Fire Protection District (FPD)/Montello VFD, along with Montello and Wendover, Nevada. The Tecoma Township Fire Protection District/Montello VFD provides fire protection to Pilot Valley and has 25 volunteers. Table 31-1 lists the types of local wildfire resources, cooperating partners, and equipment available for initial response to Pilot Valley 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 4 Engine||1||Tecoma Township FPD-Montello VFD
|Type 6 Engine
Type 3 Engine
|Tecoma Township FPD- Montello VFD
|Type 6 Engine
Type 4 Engine
|Source: Sam Hicks, Nevada Division of Forestry Elko County Prevention Captain; Bob Farrell, Tecoma Township FPD/Montello VFD Fire Chief.|
The Tecoma Township FPD/Montello VFD has old, outdated equipment. Recently, the Montello VFD received a 1990’s Type 4 Engine that is stationed in Pilot Valley. It is important that fire suppression equipment be adequate and in proper working condition in order for fire protection personnel to be able to protect the community in the event of a wildfire.
Water available for fire suppression in Pilot Valley includes two 10,000-gallon water storage tanks at the fire station. There is also a pump that is accessible for filling trucks at the Pilot Valley Station. Irrigation wells and ranch ponds may also be used for filling fire suppression apparatuses.
The Montello volunteers 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 Tecoma Township FPD/Montello VFD responds to the following annual calls:
The vegetative fuel density in the Pilot Valley interface area is generally moderate, estimated at one to three tons per acre and was considered a moderate fuel hazard. Agricultural fields pose a low fuel hazard. Fuels throughout the community consist primarily of a shrub layer of greasewood, shadscale, sagebrush, rabbitbrush and spiny hopsage, with an understory of halogeton and cheatgrass. Cheatgrass will produce higher volumes of fuel and elevate fuel hazard conditions in years of above normal precipitation. Russian thistle and kochia was noted along roadsides and in disturbed areas. Both are highly flammable when dry. Russian thistle dries as tumbleweed and tends to accumulate along fence lines and against structures. The terrain within the community boundary is generally flat with little or no slope. The prevailing wind direction is from the 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 Pilot Valley would come from a dry lightning storm late on a summer afternoon during a normal to above normal precipitation year and high annual grass and forb production. Multiple fire ignitions and strong erratic winds could push fires through the community from any direction. Potential delayed response by the Tecoma Township FPD/Montello VFD during normal working hours, coupled with additional firefighting resources located one to two hours away or more, increases fire danger for the community.
Based on an analysis of fire history in the area, Pilot Valley has a high risk of ignition. Ignition risk is increased during years of high precipitation, when fuel loading from annual grasses becomes heavier. There is an extensive wildfire history and a history of lightning strikes in the public lands surrounding the community. The primary risk of ignition in Pilot Valley 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 Pilot Valley area focus primarily on the ongoing and additional efforts to create and maintain defensible space and on 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 an 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.
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 as needed.
|Community Coordination||Post addresses so they are visible from the road.|
Nevada Department of Transportation
|Fuels Reduction||Reduce vegetation along the perimeter road around the community 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.|
|Tecoma Township Fire Protection District Montello VFD
Nevada Division of Forestry
|Fire Suppression Resources||Continue to meet annually with the cooperating agencies to review pre-attack plans for the area.
Upgrade fire suppression apparatus.
Upgrade the radio system to narrow band technology to ensure proper communication compatibility.
Continue to coordinate with local ranchers to ensure that fire protection personnel can use agricultural wells to fill firefighting apparatus.
|Public Education||Distribute copies of the publication “Living With Fire” to all property owners. This publication is free of charge.|
Pilot Valley Wildfire Hazard Rating Summary
Pilot Valley Fire History and Suppression Resources