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 communities within Humboldt County, Nevada that were identified in the 2001 Federal Register list of communities at risk within the vicinity of federal lands that are most vulnerable to the threat of wildfire. The communities assessed in Humboldt County are listed in Table 1-1.
The Nevada Fire Safe Council contracted with Resource Concepts, Inc. (RCI) assembled 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 Humboldt County community listed in the Federal Register. The RCI Project Team spent three days inventorying conditions in Humboldt County and completing the primary data collection and verification portions of the risk assessment.
This report describes in detail the data and information collected, analyzed, and considered during the assessment of each community. The general results are summarized in Table 1-1. Five primary factors that affect potential fire hazard were assessed to arrive at the community hazard assessment score: community design, construction materials, defensible space, suppression capabilities, and physical conditions that affect fire behavior, such as the vegetative fuel load and topography. Information on fire suppression capabilities and responsibilities for Humboldt County communities was obtained from local Fire Chiefs and agency Fire Management Officers. Fire Specialists on the RCI Project Team assigned an ignition risk rating for each community of low, moderate, or high. 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 judgments based on experience with wildland fire ignitions in Nevada.
|Community||Interface Condition||Interface Fuel Hazard Condition||Ignition Risk||Community Hazard Rating|
|Denio||Intermix||Low to High||High||Moderate|
|Denio Junction||Rural||Low to Moderate||High||Low|
|Golconda||Intermix||Low to Moderate||Moderate||Moderate|
|Grass Valley||Intermix||Low to High||High||Moderate|
|McDermitt||Classic Interface||Low to Moderate||High||Low|
|Orovada||Intermix||Low to Moderate||High||Low|
|Classic Interface||Low to Moderate||High||Low|
|Quinn River||Intermix and Rural||Low to High||High||Not Quantified1|
|Winnemucca||Classic Interface||Low to High||High||Moderate|
|Fort McDermitt||Intermix||Low to High||N/A2||High3|
|1 The Risk/Hazard Assessment procedures are not applicable to rural ranch communities|
2 This information was not available in the SWCA (2003) report.
3 This rating was based upon similar community hazard assessment procedures reported in the SWCA (2003) report.
The community wildfire hazard rating is moderate in the communities of Denio, Golconda, Grass Valley, Paradise Ranchos, Paradise Valley, Quinn River, Valmy, and Winnemucca, due primarily to fire ignition history, wildfire history, and cheatgrass invasion that adds to the fire hazard. The hazard rating in Denio Junction, McDermitt, and Orovada is low primarily because of sparse brush and agricultural buffer zones.
Fire Protection within Humboldt County is provided by all-volunteer fire departments operating within NRS 474 Fire Protection Districts that are funded primarily by ad valorem and other tax revenues. One exception to the all-volunteer status in Humboldt County is the Winnemucca Rural Fire Department, which employs a career Fire Chief. Grass Valley has a career Fire Chief and 25 volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters may not always be available to respond to wildfires, especially during normal work hours. In the case that a fire occurs during hours when volunteers are unable to respond, the Bureau of Land Management Winnemucca Field Office has cooperative agreements with all Humboldt County volunteer fire departments to provide fire suppression equipment and personnel. The BLM Winnemucca Field Office has 25 trained fire personnel and 50 seasonal employees. The equipment available from the BLM, listed in Section 4.1.1 of this report, is stationed at the Winnemucca Field Office, and ready for dispatch within ten to fifteen minutes of notification of a wildfire.
The US Forest Service Santa Rosa Ranger District has resources in the field in Paradise Valley. The Nevada Division of Forestry administers a Conservation Honor Camp at Rose Creek approximately five miles West of Winnemucca with trained fire crews available for wildfire suppression.
The Central Nevada Interagency Dispatch Center located in Winnemucca provides unified dispatch services for the Winnemucca and Battle Mountain BLM Field Offices, the US Forest Service Santa Rosa, Austin, and Tonopah Ranger Districts, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Resources from the NDF Honor Camp at Rose Creek are dispatched through the Interagency Dispatch Center in Elko.
Humboldt County has an extensive wildfire history. As detailed in Table 3-2, approximately 1,500,000 acres were burned between 1980 and 2003. Much of the county is prone to summer thunderstorms characterized by dry lightning, which is the primary ignition risk. Another prominent wildfire hazard throughout much of Humboldt County is the vast expanses of cheatgrass. Cheatgrass growth is dependent on winter and spring moisture; it produces higher volumes of fuel in high moisture years, and less in years with below normal precipitation. Cheatgrass is a highly flammable annual grass that provides a readily ignited fuel bed, a fast advancing fire front, and a continuous layer of fuel that ladders fire into adjacent shrubs and any other flammable material it comes into contact with.
While many homeowners in Humboldt County have been aggressive in establishing and maintaining appropriate defensible space around their residences, more residents need to implement and maintain defensible space. 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.
Residents in Denio need to reduce high, dense sagebrush and other fuels within the community. In Grass Valley, Paradise Valley, Paradise Ranchos, and Winnemucca, residents should maintain better defensible space around homes, outbuildings, livestock corrals, and haystacks. Fuelbreaks and fuel reduction treatments have been recommended in Denio, Golconda, Grass Valley, and Winnemucca to be implemented cooperatively by public land agencies, Humboldt County, and property owners. In some areas, street and address signage needs improvement so that firefighters can easily locate homes at risk under low visibility conditions during a fire.
The adoption and enforcement of regulations that address community fire safety in the wildland-urban interface and include mandatory fuel reduction treatments and annual maintenance for all new development must be a high priority for future planning. The County must assure that fire safe community recommendations, such as those listed in Appendix F, are adopted in Humboldt County.
To control the spread of cheatgrass in the future, burned areas must be reseeded with appropriate native and adapted species promptly following fire suppression. Defensible space zones and fuel reduction treatment areas must be mowed or grazed prior to seed set, and/or treated with a pre-emergent herbicide to deplete the cheatgrass seed in the soil. Cheatgrass control treatments often take two or more years to be successful. After initial treatment, reseeding the area with native and climatically adapted species will aid in eliminating cheatgrass from the landscape.
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, Humboldt County, the Nevada Division of Forestry, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Wildfire Support Group is crucial for successful implementation of necessary fuel reduction projects to improve fire safety in the wildland-urban interface communities throughout Humboldt 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 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 Councilemail@example.com
|Nevada Division of Forestry||Fire Program Coordinator
|Nevada Association of Countiesfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|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