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The RCI Project Team developed the recommendations in this report for Humboldt County communities based on site-specific conditions observed during the wildfire risk and hazard assessments and information provided by local fire departments and agencies. General and specific recommendations provide a starting point for each community to take a proactive approach in implementing projects to reduce the likelihood of loss of life, property, and natural resources during a wildfire.
The communities in Humboldt County are generally at high risk for wildfire ignitions in the wildland-urban interface areas surveyed and at moderate risk for potential structure loss or damage. The county is in an area known for summer thunderstorms and dry lightning strikes. Humboldt County has the highest occurrence of wildfires in Nevada, mostly originating from dry lightning strike ignitions. Public education about fire safety, implementation and maintenance of defensible space, and fuels reduction projects will remedy many of the local hazards and provide a greater level of safety to Humboldt County communities.
Wildfire suppression resources are generally good throughout Humboldt County. Each community has their own volunteer fire department, with the exception of Denio Junction where the responding fire department is three miles away. The BLM Winnemucca Field Office has cooperative agreements with all Humboldt County volunteer fire departments to offer fire suppression equipment and personnel. Resources from the BLM are stationed on-site at the Winnemucca Field Office, and are dispatched within ten to fifteen minutes of notification of a wildfire. The BLM run card system has been automated and now alerts the BLM as to the type of hazard day, the predetermined type and amount resources that should be dispatched to the fire, and resources potentially available from local volunteer fire departments and the Wildfire Support Group.
Agricultural fields and pastures surround the communities of Denio Junction, Quinn River, and Paradise Valley, and provide a buffer zone between residential structures and wildland fuels. These areas are more at risk of economic loss from damage to ranch improvements, equipment storage yards, and haystacks than from residential structure loss. Recommendations for these rural communities have been developed to address protection of their ranch assets.
Cheatgrass is a prominent wildfire hazard in Humboldt County. The growth and associated fuel hazard of this invasive annual grass depends on moisture - in dry years cheatgrass growth will be minimal, but in years of higher than normal precipitation cheatgrass production will be excessive and is considered a high fuel hazard. Burned areas are susceptible to cheatgrass invasion. Successful cheatgrass control and eventual rehabilitation of cheatgrass dominated rangelands will require a coordinated effort among local government, property owners, and land management agencies. Alternatives currently available for cheatgrass control include mowing prior to seed maturity, pre-emergent herbicide applications, and livestock grazing. Control treatments generally need to be repeated over multiple years to be effective, which requires a long-term commitment to monitoring and evaluation. Most important is the prevention of future expansion of cheatgrass dominance and invasion by implementing fuel reduction treatments to reduce the severity of wildfire, minimize ignition risks through public education, and provide equipment and training to local volunteers and the Wildfire Support Group for effective and rapid response and initial attack in remote areas. Newly burned areas with the potential for cheatgrass invasion should be reclaimed expediently with native and adapted species following fires.
There is no way to completely eliminate the threat that wildfires present to communities in the wildland-urban interface. However, the recommendations in this report are intended to increase public responsibility and encourage concerned community members to be proactive in reducing the risk of wildfire ignitions near their communities by creating and maintaining defensible space on their private property and increasing public awareness of the risks and potential for damage or loss of lives and property associated with living in a fire environment.
The recommendations presented for each community in this report should be considered a starting point for addressing community wildfire safety. Long-term community safety from wildfire requires a permanent commitment to the enforcement of fire safe ordinances at the local level and dedicated attention to fuels management. Regular monitoring of fuel conditions and periodic updates to this report should include new recommendations for maintenance or implementation of additional treatments as development continues to encroach at the wildland-urban interface.