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Grass Valley is located in west-central Eureka County directly south of Crescent Valley. The dominant vegetation surrounding the valley is big sagebrush. Grass Valley is a rural community that overlaps into neighboring Lander County with scattered ranches situated several miles apart. The rural ranch community type does not lend itself to the standard community assessment procedures. Community design, suppression resources, and fuel hazard conditions are described qualitatively for the community (Figure 10-1).
The topography is generally flat and homes are surrounded by landscaped yards, corrals, or agricultural pastures with no wildland vegetation in close proximity to structures. These common characteristics usually contribute to a low risk of damage or direct loss of property due to wildfires.
The Grass Valley community has fewer than five ranches in Eureka County and is isolated from other communities in Eureka County. The greatest risk facing ranch operators is the loss of stored equipment and stockpiled hay that is not protected by defensible space.
There is no organized fire department in Grass Valley. The closest resources are at least one hour away, from Eureka or Crescent Valley or from Austin in neighboring Lander County. Additional resources are available to respond to a wildland fire from the BLM Battle Mountain and Elko Field Offices and the NDF Carlin Conservation Camp as described in Section 4.1.1.
There is no water designated for fire suppression in Grass Valley. Water comes from individual wells or ranch ponds.
An alkaline playa creates a complete firebreak on the west boundary of the community that transitions into a greasewood flat. Within the community boundary, the valley bottom is either rabbitbrush and Great Basin wildrye or agricultural hayland. Irrigated fields are considered low fuel hazards. A large burned area from the 1999 fire east of the community was reseeded and now consists of cheatgrass, crested wheatgrass, and other grasses. Lower parts of the burn are cheatgrass, Russian thistle, kochia, and other annuals. The burned area was considered a low fuel hazard. Some unburned slopes within the burn perimeter have pinyon and juniper. North of the community, lands that have not been developed for agriculture and have not burned in recent history are a vast expanse of uniform big sagebrush shrublands with some greasewood and rabbitbrush associations on specific soil types. Shrub density varies from low to medium with an average plant height of one to two feet tall. Fuel loading was estimated at one to two tons per acre and was considered a low to moderate fuel hazard. Ground fuels are generally sparse and consist of cheatgrass, squirrel tail, and blue grass Cheatgrass fuels can increase fuel hazards in shrublands during years with higher than normal precipitation. The predominant winds in the valley are from the southwest and west.
A worst-case scenario would occur in mid to late summer after a year of above normal precipitation and high cheatgrass production. High volumes of dry cheatgrass and annual weeds will provide an easily ignited fine fuel bed that can readily carry fire through the brush under windy conditions. Strong erratic winds greater than twenty mph during lightning storms could push fires in any direction. Multiple ignitions caused by dry lightning strikes in the afternoon could exceed the initial attack capabilities that are a minimum of one hour away.
The ignition risk for Grass Valley was determined to be low based on fire and ignition history. Lightning is the primary ignition risk in the area.
The risk and hazard reduction recommendations for Grass Valley address the primary concern for maintaining defensible space and assuring water availability for fire suppression.
Despite the reduced risk of damage or loss to structural properties, Grass Valley has other unique conditions due to the remote location and relative isolation. Hay and alfalfa fields, stockpiled bales, livestock, ranching and farming equipment, and fuel tanks are assets that require special planning for protection against wildfire because of their considerable value to ranchers and farmers.
|Involved Party||Recommended Treatment||Recommendation Description|
|Property Owners||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.
Create a firebreak of bare ground or gravel for 100 feet around haystacks.
Clear a minimum ten-foot space around fuel tanks.
|Fire Suppression Resources||Establish backup power systems to assure that functional water sources are available for fire suppression.
Develop water storage for fire protection and install water outlets with fire department threads on new and existing water developments for filling water tenders and engines. Pursue grant funding to assist with financing these improvements.
|Nevada Cooperative Extension||Public Education||Develop a rural Nevada version of the “Living With Fire” publication tailored to the concerns of rural Nevada ranchers and farmers.|
Grass Valley/Gund Ranch Fire History and Completed Mitigation Treatments