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Grass Valley is located in northeastern portion of Pershing County (See Figure 5-1). The town is situated in a valley with agricultural lands to the south. There are approximately 400 residences in Grass Valley. The risk and hazard assessment resulted in classifying Grass Valley, as a whole, in the Moderate Hazard category (45 points). This score is attributed primarily to the sparse vegetation surrounding the community, the buffer of agricultural land to the south, and the fire-safe construction of many of the structures in the interface area. The specific findings for each of the Wildland Fire Assessment parameters are reported below. Also included is a description of the predicted fire behavior and the worst-case fire scenario for Grass Valley. The community risk/hazard assessment summary sheet is provided at the end of this section.
The interface condition surrounding Grass Valley is classified as an intermix interface condition. Most of the residences are clustered together in the northern end of the community. The southern end of the community consists of scattered homes and farmland. Lot sizes vary widely, from less than one acre to ten acres in size, although larger parcels of land are more common to the south. Structure spacing varies from very close to widely dispersed structures surrounded by sizeable expanses of vacant land.
All of the roads in the community are graded dirt roads. These roads typically have a gradient of less than five percent and provide adequate room for fire suppression equipment.
All of the homes observed in the interface area are built with fire resistant roof and siding materials. Roof materials include composition roofing, metal, and tile. About half of the homes have unenclosed balconies, porches, decks or other architectural features that can create drafts and provide areas where sparks and embers can smolder and rapidly spread fire to the home itself.
The vast majority of the homes have landscaping that would meet the defensible space requirement to protect the home from damage or risk of loss during a wildfire.
Grass Valley is provided fire protection by the 16-member all-volunteer Grass Valley Volunteer Fire Department. It was noted by the Fire Chief that the initial response to a wildland fire by volunteers could vary based on the day of the week and time of day of the fire. Some volunteers could be unable to respond immediately to fire calls during typical working hours.
|Response Time||Type of Equipment||Amount of Equipment||Cooperating Partner
|10- 30 minutes||Engine
|Grass Valley VFD|
|30 minutes||Type II Engine
|Imlay VFD (Imlay)|
|1-2 hours||Engine||1||Winnemucca RFD (Winnemucca)|
|Lovelock VFD (Lovelock)|
|1-2 hours||Engine||1||Rye Patch VFD (Rye Patch)|
|Source: Jim Mahaffry and Susan Mahaffry, pers. comm. Feb. 11, 2004; Dora Wren, email comm., May 19, 2004.|
Water availability for fire suppression resources for Grass Valley include:
The water system relies on electrical pumps. There is a backup emergency generator to run the pumps; the owner of the water system is responsible for generator maintenance.
All volunteer firefighters are trained to a minimum of State Fire Marshal entry-level firefighter qualifications and are working towards State Fire Marshal firefighter I qualifications. Firefighters have also taken a 40-hour basic wildland firefighting course with an eight-hour annual refresher course. The Grass Valley Volunteer Fire Department does not utilize the Red Card certification 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 that indicates an individual is qualified to fight wildland fires.
The Grass Valley Volunteer Fire Department responded to 26 calls in 2003.
Financial support for the Grass Valley Fire Department comes primarily from the Pershing County General Fund. The Fire Department also pursues grant funding when available. Pershing County has very limited financial resources. Property and sales tax rates are limited by Nevada Revised Statutes. Overlapping tax rates in Lovelock are currently at the property tax cap set by Statute. Additional countywide taxes cannot be raised without special consideration to the tax rate situation in Lovelock. Unless a special entity such as a Fire Protection District is formed, increases in funding for fire suppression in areas such as Grass Valley will occur only if there are increases in revenues or reductions in other county services.
Pershing County has an active Local Emergency Planning Committee and has adopted an all-risk, multi-agency emergency plan. The plan is periodically updated and was last revised in 2003.
The Grass Valley Volunteer Fire Department does not review development plans.
The BLM also has a pre-attack plan for the area. This plan is updated annually prior to the start of each fire season.
The vegetative fuel density in the Grass Valley interface area varies from light to medium. Light fuels on the south and southeastern edge of the community consists primarily of Bailey’s greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus var. baileyi), bud sagebrush (Picrothamnus desertorum), cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), rabbitbrush (Ericameria sp.), and Russian thistle (Salsola kali). Fuel density in this area was estimated to be less than one ton per acre. This section of the valley has burned in previous years, resulting in extensive cheatgrass-dominated areas.
Fuel on the north and western edge of the community is of medium density with the same vegetation types as previously described for the southern and southeastern portions of the community. As this area has not experienced recent wildland fire activity, the vegetation density was estimated to range from one to three tons per acre.
Agricultural lands, which can provide some protection from wildfire, lie to the south of the community.
The terrain is relatively flat with a minimal slope of five percent or less. The community is situated with a south and west aspect, and the predominant wind is from the south/southwest in the late afternoon.
The worst-case scenario of a major wildland fire in the area surrounding Grass Valley would occur on a high hazard day during a dry lightning storm. An ignition close to the southern edge of town in the mid-afternoon could be pushed towards the community by winds out of the southwest. If the fire began during normal working hours, the limited or delayed response by volunteer firefighters could lead to uncontrolled growth of the fire. The situation would be worsened if mutual aid resources were unavailable or on assignment to an emergency situation elsewhere.
While the risk of fire occurrence in Grass Valley is high, the hazard to the community is low due to the sparse, low brush in and around the intermixed interface area and the irrigated agricultural lands to the south.
The following factors pose the greatest risks for unintended wildland fire ignition:
Grass Valley has taken steps to begin reducing the risk of wildland fire in their community. Members of the volunteer fire department have taken a 40-hour basic wildland firefighting class with an annual eight-hour refresher course. A public education program in the form of a Family Safety Day that included a fire safety component was held in 2003.
The responsibility to keep a community fire safe falls not only on the local fire department but also on the residents of the community, businesses, and local governments. The Grass Valley Risk/Hazard Reduction Recommendations focus primarily on additional efforts that can be taken by community members and public agencies to increase wildland fire safety through the reduction of hazardous fuels. Other recommendations pertain to community coordination and public education efforts that could enhance fire safety in Grass Valley. The recommendations are detailed below and summarized in Table 5-2.
General guidelines for improving defensible space around residences and structures in the community are described below.
Following are some general fuel reduction treatments that should be implemented to reduce the potential fire hazard.
Coordination among local, state and federal fire suppression agencies is important in the day-to-day fire prevention activities and becomes critical in the event of a wildland fire. During a fire event, firefighters from other communities and states may be dispatched to areas they have never been before. This is particularly true in areas like Grass Valley that have limited fire suppression resources and will most likely be dependent on outside agencies in the event of a catastrophic wildland fire. The following recommendations should be implemented in Grass Valley that relate to Community Coordination.
Public education about how to become more fire safe is critical in remote communities with limited fire suppression resources such as Grass Valley.
|Responsible Party||recommendation Description|
|Property Owners||Remove, reduce, and replace vegetation around homes according to the defensible space guidelines in Appendix G.
Maintain defensible space.
Remove debris and wood piles within the defensible space.
Install spark arrestors on chimneys.
Remove or clean up abandoned vehicles, trailers, and structures.
Form a local chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council.
Post addresses for visibility from roads.
|Utility Company||Clear all vegetation within 30 feet of the fence around all electrical transfer stations.|
|Grass Valley VFD||Clear weeds within 10 feet of all fire hydrants.
Meet with the BLM annually to discuss their pre-attack plan.
Keep current on wildland fire training
Distribute copies of the publication “Living with Fire” to all property owners.
Continue “Community Pride” program for cleaning up weeds and debris in town and promoting community fire awareness.
Review development plans for fire safe components.
|Pershing County||Clear vegetation 20 feet from the edge of pavement along both sides of all county roads.
Allow burning only under a permit process or on designated community burn days.
Consider the formation of a Fire Protection District for the Grass Valley area.
Grass Valley Wildfire Risk/Hazard Assessment Summary Sheet
Suppression Resources and Fire History for the Community of Grass Valley