RCI ReportsMineral County Fire Plan

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Project Background

A key element of the Healthy Forests Initiative announced by the White House in 2002 is the implementation of core components of the National Fire Plan Collaborative Approach for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks to Communities and the Environment 10- year Comprehensive Strategy. Federal agencies and western state governors adopted the Plan in the Spring of 2002, in collaboration with county commissioners, state foresters, and tribal officials. The Plan calls for more active forest and rangeland management to reduce the threat of wildfire in the wildland-urban interface.

The Healthy Forest Restoration Act (H.R. 1904) was signed into law in December of 2003. The act creates provisions for expanding the activities outlined in the National Fire Plan. In this same year the Nevada Fire Safe Council received National Fire Plan funding through the Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management to conduct a Community Risk/Hazard Assessment in at-risk communities across Nevada. The communities to be assessed are among those named in the 2001 Federal Register list of Communities-at-Risk within the vicinity of Federal lands (66 FR 160). The list identifies Nevada communities adjacent to Federal lands that are most vulnerable to wildfire threat in Nevada.

Resource Concepts, Inc. (RCI), a Carson City-based consulting firm, was selected to conduct the Community Risk/Hazard Assessments. During 2004, field teams comprised of fire behavior specialists, foresters, rangeland fuels specialists, and field technicians visited over 250 communities in 17 Nevada counties to assess both the risk of ignition and the potential fire behavior hazard. With the use of procedures accepted by Nevada’s wildland fire agencies, these specialists focused their analysis on the wildland-urban interface areas - places where homes and wildland meet.

The specific goals of the Nevada Community Risk/Hazard Assessment Project are to:

  • Reduce the threat of wildland fire to the communities.
  • Raise the level of public awareness about ignition risk factors and fire safe practices in the wildland-urban interface.
  • Improve local coordination for suppression activities.
  • Identify firefighting resource needs (equipment and infrastructure).
  • Describe proposed risk and hazard mitigation projects in enough detail to aid communities in applying for future implementation funds.

The Community Risk/Hazard Assessments were conducted systematically. The assessment teams observed and recorded the factors that significantly influence the risk of wildfire ignition along the wildland-urban interface, and inventoried features that can have an influence on hazardous conditions in the event of a wildfire. Interviews with local fire agency and emergency response personnel were completed to assess the availability of suppression resources and identify opportunities for increased community preparedness. A description of the existing fuel hazard and fire behavior potential is discussed and presented with photos for each community.

The results of each community assessment are formatted to facilitate ease of reference and reproduction for individual communities. Each community is mapped and recommendations to improve fire safety are described and summarized in table form. Summary sheets highlighting important aspects of Defensible Space and Homeowner Responsibilities are formatted for widespread distribution. These tools will aid local, state and federal agencies in strategic planning, raising public awareness, and seeking funding for future risk and hazard reduction projects. Mitigating the risks and hazards identified by these assessments is not only crucial to the long term goals of the National Fire Plan, but also to the short and long-term viability of Nevada’s communities, natural resources, infrastructures, and watersheds.

Numerous agencies and individuals were involved in the planning and implementation of this effort. Special thanks and acknowledgement is given to:

  • Nevada Fire Safe Council (NFSC)
  • U.S.D.I. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • U.S.D.A. Forest Service (FS)
  • U.S.D.A. Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)
  • Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF)
  • University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
  • Nevada Association of Counties (NACO)
  • Nevada’s Counties
  • Fire Chiefs and Firefighters Statewide

1.2 Communities Assessed

Seven communities within Mineral County were listed in the Federal Register (66 FR 160) as Communities-At-Risk within the vicinity of federal lands that are most vulnerable to wildfire. Six of these communities are included in this assessment: Hawthorne, Luning, Marietta, Mina, Schurz, and Walker Lake.

1.3 Communities Not Assessed

1.3.1 Montgomery Pass

Montgomery Pass, located in the southern portion of Mineral County on US Highway 6, is now a Nevada Department of Transportation station. There are no residential homes in the community and all commercial properties are closed. The risk/hazard assessment was not completed for Montgomery Pass because it is not a residential community.