Resource Concepts, Inc.
Celebrating 31 Years 1978-2009
Engineering • Surveying • Resources & Environmental Services
The Healthy Forests Initiative was announced by the White House in 2002 to implement the core components of the National Fire Plan Collaborative Approach for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks to Communities and the Environment 10-year Comprehensive Strategy. The Plan calls for more active forest and rangeland management to reduce the threat of wildland fire in the wildland-urban interface, the area where homes and wildland meet.
This report was prepared specifically for the 44 communities in Elko County that were identified in the Federal Register as communities located at the wildland-urban interface within the vicinity of Federal lands that are at high risk from wildfire (66 FR 160). The Elko County communities are listed in Table 1-1.
The Nevada Fire Safe Council contracted Resource Concepts, Inc. (RCI) to assemble a project team of experts in the fields of fire behavior and suppression, natural resource ecology, and geographic information systems (GIS) to complete the assessment for each Elko County community listed in the Federal Register. The RCI Project Team spent several days inventorying conditions in Elko County and completing the primary data collection and verification portion of the risk assessment. Field visits were conducted in August 2004.
This report describes in detail the data and information collected, analyzed, and considered during the assessment of each community, and is current as of August 2004. The general results are summarized in Table 1-1. Five primary factors that affect potential fire hazards were assessed to arrive at the community hazard assessment score: community design, construction materials, defensible space, availability of fire suppression resources, and physical conditions such as the vegetative fuel load and topography. Information on fire suppression capabilities and responsibilities for Elko County communities was obtained from local Fire Chiefs and state and federal Fire Management Officers. The Fire Specialists on the RCI Project Team assigned an ignition risk rating of low, moderate, or high to each community. The rating was based upon historical ignition patterns, the opinions of local, state, and federal fire agency personnel, field visits to each community, and professional judgment based on experience with wildland fire ignitions in Nevada.
|Community||Interface Condition||Interface Fuel Hazard Condition||Ignition Risk Rating||Community Hazard Rating|
|Extreme Hazard Communities|
|Ruby Valley Indian Allotments||Rural||Low-High||High||Extreme|
|High Hazard Communities|
|Lee/South Fork Indian Reservation||Intermix||Low-Extreme||Moderate||High|
|Lucky Nugget I & II||Intermix||Moderate||High||High|
|Ruby Lake Estates||Intermix||Low-Extreme||High||High|
|Moderate Hazard Communities|
|Elko||Classic and Intermix||Moderate-High||Moderate||Moderate|
|Hidden Valley/Coal Mine||Intermix||Moderate||Moderate||Moderate|
|Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge & Hatchery||Intermix||Moderate-High||High||Moderate|
|Wild Horse Estates||Intermix||Low-Moderate||High||Moderate|
|Low Hazard Communities|
|Rural Ranch Communities|
|Maggie Summit Road||Rural||Low-High||High||N/A1|
|Previously Assessed Communities|
|1The Community Hazard Assessment procedures are not applicable to rural ranch communities.|
2The results for communities previously assessed by other procedures are not comparable to the procedures used for this assessment.
Elko County has an extensive wildfire history. Almost 1.5 million acres were burned within the County between 1980 and 2004. The 2005 fire season has already added to this total and has impacted or imminently threatened six communities: Midas, Ten Mile, Tuscarora, Contact, Osino, Ryndon, Spring Creek, and Elburz. These conditions point to he need to update this report on an annual basis
The County is prone to dry lightning storms, the primary ignition risk in the county. Additional ignition risks include the railroad, utility lines, automobile fires, and other human causes that can occur at any time.
Fire protection throughout Elko County, with the exception of Carlin, Elko, West Wendover, Jackpot, and Wells, is provided by volunteer or combination career/volunteer fire departments as part of the Nevada Division of Forestry Elko County Fire Protection District. The Nevada Division of Forestry has an office in Elko and conservation camps in both Carlin and Wells that provide trained hand crews for wildfire suppression.
The Bureau of Land Management maintains four fire stations in Elko County in addition to the Elko Field Office: the Carlin Station, the Elko Helibase, the Midas Station, and the Wells Station. Each station has designated equipment and staff during the fire season. The US Forest Service has guard stations in Wells and Mountain City, with equipment and Type 2-Trained hand crews during the fire season. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Sho-Pai Indian tribe provide additional resources for local areas. Mutual aid agreements between state, local, and federal fire agencies provide coverage for most of Elko County including the few communities with no local fire department. The cooperation between fire agencies in Elko County deserves special recognition for their efforts.
The majority of the communities in Elko County are small and many are isolated from primary access routes. Many of the access roads to small communities are unpaved but provide adequate room for access and maneuverability of fire equipment apparatus. Emergency response plans have been completed for Elko County and are updated on a regular basis. Cooperating fire agencies meet annually to discuss pre-attack plans for wildfire scenarios. Radio communication compatibility between state and federal agencies with local and volunteer fire departments needs to be assured.
Fourteen communities with high and extreme community hazard ratings were identified in Elko County. These typically have high fuel loading and steep topography that contribute to extreme and dangerous fire behavior. Many of these communities rely on volunteer fire departments for initial attack of wildfires, and many are in need of additional water storage for fire suppression.
Seventeen communities assessed in Elko County have a moderate overall community hazard rating in the wildland-urban interface, due primarily to limited fire protection in isolated areas, limited water storage for fire suppression resources, high frequency of wildfire history, and the need for improvement in defensible space. Four communities with low community hazard scores generally are surrounded by light density fuels or agricultural lands and have fire safe community design features such as access, construction materials, and defensible space.
The Volunteer Fire Departments members are a critical component of the wildfire suppression resources in Elko County. The State of Nevada, Elko County, and the Nevada Division of Forestry need to cooperatively develop and offer incentives to recruit and maintain volunteer firefighters. Volunteer Fire Departments must make an extended effort to ensure that members attend training and are qualified for wildland fire suppression. Nevada Division of Forestry and the cooperating agencies offer training annually in several communities. Additional training locations could increase the attendance of volunteers from remote communities.
Another wildfire risk factor is the large component of cheatgrass in Elko County. 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. Once established, cheatgrass provides a continuous layer of fuel that is readily ignited and burns rapidly, especially under windy conditions.
Many of the recommendations in this report focus on efforts that can be easily initiated by homeowners to enhance the fire safe nature of their homes and communities. While many homeowners in Elko County have been aggressive in establishing and maintaining appropriate defensible space around their residences, more work is needed. Defensible space treatments are most effective when completed over large, continuous areas. Community-wide efforts will be much more effective in reducing wildfire threat than individual or incomplete treatments. Volunteer citizen groups, locally-based and organized to take responsibility and provide leadership for community-wide fuels reduction have proven to be an effective way to achieve widespread action. The Nevada Fire Safe Council is one option for community organization to assist with improving community safety at the local level. As a last resort, NRS 472.041 authorizes the Nevada State Forester Firewarden to implement fire hazard reduction practices on private land when structures are threatened from fuel accumulation and the property owners do not implement hazard reduction treatments.
The state, local, and federal cooperating fire agencies have been very active and aggressive in Elko County in implementing fuel reduction treatments in the wildland-urban interface. This cooperative effort has allowed for maximum efficiency of labor and funding to accomplish high priority treatments on the ground. Numerous projects are currently underway or are in the final planning stages. The results of this assessment have identified additional fuel reduction treatments and fuelbreak recommendations in Jarbidge, Jiggs/Smith Creek, Ruby Valley Indian Allotments, Ruby Lake NWR and Hatchery, Ruby Valley Lake Estates, Midas, Gold Creek, Jackpot, Montello, Osino, Owyhee, and Spring Creek. A summary of the fuel reduction treatments in each community is listed in Table 1-2. Continued coordination between public land managers and communities is crucial in reducing ignition risks and wildfire hazards to improve community fire safety.
The need to improve street and address signage was common to many communities. Signage improvements should be prioritized to enable firefighters to easily locate at-risk homes or specific areas of communities in low visibility conditions during a fire.
There is no way to completely eliminate the threat of wildfire in the wildland-urban interface. Close and continued coordination between citizens, local fire departments, Elko County, the Nevada Division of Forestry, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs is crucial for successful implementation of necessary fuel reduction projects that improve fire safety in the wildland-urban interface communities throughout Elko County. Recommendations in this report are intended to:
Acknowledging the need for ongoing fuels management on public and private lands is vital for fire safe living in a wildfire-prone environment. The best possible assurance for long-term community safety from wildfire requires continued involvement and support of citizen-based organizations and a permanent commitment to the enforcement of fire safe ordinances at the local level. Mandatory fuels management includes regular monitoring and evaluation of fuel conditions and maintenance or implementation of additional fuel reduction treatments as development continues to encroach at the wildland-urban interface.
Any of the following agencies or organizations can be contacted for further information and assistance.
|Nevada Fire Safe Councilfirstname.lastname@example.org
|Nevada Division of Forestry||Fire Program Coordinator
|Nevada Association of Countiesemail@example.com|
|Bureau of Land Management Nevada State Office||Nevada BLM State Fire Management Officer
|Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisors Office||H-T Supervisors Office Fire Staff Officer|
|High and Extreme Hazard Communities|
|Jarbidge||Shaded fuelbreak, 300’ x 1.5 mi||54 acres||X||X||X|
|Jiggs/Smith Creek||Fuelbreak, 50’ on each side of Smith Creek Road, 100’ x 6.2 mi||75 acres||X||X||X||X|
|Ruby Lake Estates||Greenstrip, 50’ on east side and 100’ on west side of Ruby Valley Road, 150’ x 1.5 mi||27 acres||X||X||X||X|
|Midas||Greenstrips, 300’ x 2.2 mi||80 acres||X||X|
|Osino||Greenstrips, 150’ x 10.3 mi||187 acres||X||X||X||X|
|Moderate Hazard Communities|
|Gold Creek||Fuelbreak, 200’ x 0.8 mi||21 acres||X||X|
|Owyhee||Fuelbreak, 100’ x 1.4 mi||17 acres||Tribe|
|Ruby Lake NWR and Hatchery||Fuelbreak, 200’ x 0.6 mi||16 acres||FWS|
|Fuelbreak, 300’ x 0.4 mi||13 acres||NDOW|
|Spring Creek||Fuelbreak, 200’ x 4.4 mi||106 acres||X||X|
|Low Hazard Communities|
|Jackpot||Fire Access Road (firebreak) 15’ x 1.6 mi||3 acres||X||X||X|
|Montello||Fuelbreak, 50’ x 1.5 mi||9 acres||X||X||X|
|1 Roadside fuelbreak areas are measured from the edge of road. Treatment area estimates include both sides of the road.|