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Winnemucca is located in southeast Humboldt County along US Interstate 80 and US Highway 95. The Union Pacific Railroad passes through town. The hazard assessment of 554 residences in the interface area resulted in classifying Winnemucca in the Moderate Hazard category (54 points). A summary of the factors that contributed to the hazard rating is included in Table 15-3. The factors that most influenced the hazard rating for Winnemucca were a high density of structures in the wildland-urban interface area, heavy fuels accumulations throughout the community, and less than adequate defensible space around numerous homes in the interface area.
The wildland-urban interface area surrounding Winnemucca is a classic interface condition. There is a clear line of demarcation between wildland fuels and residential structures. Nearly all of the homes assessed were on lots of less than one acre.
Ninety eight percent of the homes in the interface were built with non-combustible or ignition resistant siding materials. Many of the homes had siding made of medium density fiberboard (MDF), a material that typically burns only when exposed to high temperatures for a prolonged period of time.
Nearly all of the homes had fire resistant roofing such as composition shingles or metal roofs. Approximately one-third of the homes observed had an unenclosed balcony, porch, deck or other architectural features that can create drafty areas where firebrands and embers can accumulate, smolder and ignite, rapidly spreading fire to the home.
Sixty of the homes assessed did not have the minimum requirements recommended for defensible space to help protect the home or minimize the potential for damage or loss during a wildfire.
The Winnemucca Volunteer Fire Department protects the community of Winnemucca. At the time that interviews were conducted for this report, the Winnemucca VFD had 24 volunteer members. Table 15-1 lists wildfire suppression resources available for initial attack on a wildland fire call in Winnemucca.
|Type of Equipment||Amount of Equipment||Cooperating Partner
|Engine Type 6
Engine Type 3
|Source: Personal communication with Chief Walt Johnston, Winnemucca Volunteer Fire Department.|
Bureau of Land Management wildfire suppression resources are available to all Humboldt County communities through cooperative agreements with local fire departments. The equipment listed in Table 4-2 represents resources assigned to the BLM Winnemucca Field Office that are available for dispatch within ten to fifteen minutes of notification of a wildfire.
The Nevada Division of Forestry Honor Camp at Rose Creek, approximately 5 miles west of Winnemucca, has trained fire crews that are available for fuel reduction and fire suppression activities.
Water availability for fire suppression in Winnemucca includes:
The community water system operates on gravity and electrical pumps. There is a backup emergency generator to run the pumps in the event of a power failure during a wildfire.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office notifies the Winnemucca Volunteer Fire Department and the Central Nevada Interagency Dispatch Center of wildfires reported by 911 calls. The Central Nevada Interagency Dispatch dispatches both Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service resources in Humboldt County.
All volunteer firefighters are trained to meet the State of Nevada entry-level Firefighter and Firefighter I and II qualifications; and receive BLM Wildland Firefighter training. The Winnemucca VFD does not utilize the Red Card system for individual qualifications. A Red Card certification is part of a fire qualifications management system used by many state and all federal wildland fire management agencies to indicate an individual’s qualifications to fight wildfires.
The Winnemucca Volunteer Fire Department responded to eight calls in 2003:
The Winnemucca Volunteer Fire Department does not respond to emergency medical calls.
Funding for the Winnemucca Volunteer Fire Department comes from the Winnemucca General Fund.
The community of Winnemucca is included in Humboldt County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee, which includes hazardous materials response, and the Humboldt County disaster plan. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office manages the County emergency evacuation plan, and the Winnemucca Volunteer Fire Department manages the pre-attack plan. The Winnemucca VFD reviews development plans for the community. There is currently no brush clearance program in Winnemucca.
The Winnemucca BLM Field Office constructed a 300-foot wide greenstrip on the east side of Winnemucca in 2001 to help reduce the risk of wildfire threatening the east side of the community. The BLM seeded the greenstrip with forage kochia, a fire-resistant and low growing perennial forb (M. Whalen, pers. comm.). The total project length was approximately 1.75 miles.
Slopes in and around the community vary from flat to twenty percent with a south aspect. Narrow mountain canyons occur directly west of the community. The predominant wind directions are from the west-southwest, although during summer thunderstorms erratic winds can come from any direction. A large part of the interface area around Winnemucca has burned repeatedly since 1985. The burned areas were reseeded and are composed of some crested wheatgrass, Sandberg bluegrass, bottlebrush squirreltail and cheatgrass. The overall fuel hazard in the burn areas of the interface was considered low. Unburned shrublands consist primarily of sagebrush, fourwing saltbush, rabbitbrush, or greasewood with squirreltail and cheatgrass ground fuels. These areas were estimated at two to four tons per acre, and considered a moderate fuel hazard on flat terrain and a high fuel hazard on steeper slopes. The fuel load along the Humboldt River was estimated at six to eight tons per acre consisting primarily of Russian olive, elms, willow, and poplar trees, with cattails and some cheatgrass.
The worst-case scenario for the community of Winnemucca would begin with a lightning ignition in the shrub fuel type in or around the community. Erratic winds would drive the fire through cheatgrass and into the shrub layer, with flame lengths up to fifteen feet in height and moving at a rate of approximately 1,900 to 5,300 feet per hour. This rapidly moving fire could exceed initial attack resources and spread to structures in the community.
The ignition risk in Winnemucca is high based on historic ignition patterns and wildfire history. The primary ignition risks in Winnemucca are lightning and ignitions from highway or railroad accidents, although human caused ignitions are unpredictable and can occur at any time.
The Winnemucca risk and hazard reduction recommendations focus on improving defensible space and implementing fuel reduction projects around the community. Other recommendations pertain to community coordination efforts that would enhance the fire safe nature of Winnemucca.
Vegetation density, type of fuel, and slope gradient around a home affect the potential fire exposure levels to the home. The first goal of defensible space is to reduce the risk of property loss from wildfire by eliminating flammable vegetation near the home, thereby lowering the potential to burn. The second goal of defensible space is to provide firefighters a safer working area from which to defend the home or outbuildings during a wildland fire. Guidelines for improving defensible space around residences and structures are described in detail in Appendix E.
Many of the most effective activities aimed at reducing the threat of wildfire for the Winnemucca community require that individual property owners coordinate with each other and with local fire authorities. Public education and awareness, neighbors helping neighbors, and proactive individuals setting examples for others to follow are just some of the approaches that will be necessary to meet the fire safe goals in the community.
Nevada Fire Safe Council
1187 Charles Drive
Reno, Nevada 89509
|Responsible Party||Recommended Treatment||Recommendation Description|
|Property Owners||Defensible Space||Remove, reduce, and replace vegetation around homes according to the defensible space guidelines in Appendix E.|
|Community Coordination and Education||Form a local chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council.|
|Humboldt County||Defensible Space||Revise codes and ordinances to require and enforce defensible space treatments on all lots in the interface area.
Require provisions for fuel reduction treatment implementation and maintenance as a condition of new subdivision approval in the interface areas.
|Bureau of Land Management
|Fuels Reduction||Construct greenstrips around the community 100 to 200 feet wide on the northwest, south, and northeast portions of the community as shown in Figure 15-1.
Seed the greenstrip treatment areas with low-growing, fire-resistant perennial grasses and forbs.
Permit livestock grazing prior to seed maturity to reduce cheatgrass. Balance annual stocking rates with annual cheatgrass grass productivity.
|Union Pacific Railroad||Fuels Reduction||Remove or mow vegetation on both sides of the tracks within 15 feet.|
|Winnemucca Volunteer Fire Department||Community Coordination and Education||Distribute copies of “Living With Fire” to property owners.
Contact the BLM Winnemucca Field Office and University of Nevada Cooperative Extension for assistance with public education.
Winnemucca Fire History, Suppression Resources, Critical Features, and Existing and Proposed Mitigation Projects
Winnemucca Classification of Fuel Hazards
Photo Point 1. 4537305N, 441588E, 150°SE. Shrublands dominated by sagebrush and rabbitbrush with a fine fuel component of cheatgrass were considered a moderate fuel hazard.
Photo Point 2. 4539367N, 438953E, 174° SE. The fuels along the Humboldt River corridor include Russian olive, tamarisk, willow, rabbitbrush, wild rose, and salt grass. Fuel loading here was estimated at six to eight tons per acre.
Winnemucca Wildfire Hazard Rating Summary