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 Washoe 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. Washoe County communities located in the Lake Tahoe Basin were addressed in a separate report. The communities assessed in Washoe County are listed in Table 1-1.
The Nevada Fire Safe Council contracted with Resource Concepts, Inc. (RCI) to assemble a project team of experts in the fields of fire behavior and suppression, forest and rangeland ecology, forest health, and geographic information systems (GIS) to complete the assessment for each Washoe County community listed in the Federal Register. The RCI Project Team spent approximately three weeks in September 2004 inventorying conditions in Washoe County and completing the primary data collection and verification portions of the risk assessment.
The general risk/hazard assessment results for each community are summarized in Table 1-1. Five primary factors that affect the potential fire hazard were assessed to arrive at the community hazard assessment score: community design, construction materials, defensible space, availability of fire suppression resources, and physical conditions such as the vegetative fuel load and topography. Information on fire suppression capabilities and responsibilities for Washoe County communities was obtained from local Fire Chiefs and agency Fire Management Officers. The RCI Project Team Fire Specialists 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 the professional judgment of the Fire Specialists on the RCI Team based on their experience with wildland fire ignitions in Nevada.
A total of 41 communities were included in the risk/hazard assessment for Washoe County. Nearly half of these areas have high and extreme fuel hazard conditions within one mile of the community boundary. In some cases, hazardous fuel conditions occur within the community boundary. Many of the areas that were classified as moderate fuel hazards have a large component of cheatgrass. During years with above normal precipitation and abundant growth of cheatgrass, perennial grass, and annual forbs, these areas can escalate into high fuel hazard conditions.
|Community||Interface Condition||Interface Fuel Hazard Condition||Ignition Risk Rating||Community Hazard Rating|
|High and Extreme Hazard Communities|
|Antelope Valley||Intermix||Low to High||High||High|
|Mount Rose Corridor||Intermix||Moderate to Extreme||High||High|
|Rancho Haven||Intermix||Moderate to Extreme||High||High|
|Red Rock||Intermix||Low to High||High||High|
|Warm Springs Valley||Intermix||Low to High||High||High|
|Washoe Valley - West||Intermix||Low to Extreme||High||High|
|Moderate Hazard Communities|
|Galena||Intermix||High to Extreme||High||Moderate|
|Gerlach||Intermix||Low to Moderate||Moderate||Moderate|
|Mogul (I-80 Corridor West)||Classic||Moderate||High||Moderate|
|Nixon||Intermix||Low to High||High||Moderate|
|Palomino Valley||Intermix||Low to High||High||Moderate|
|Pleasant Valley||Classic||Moderate to High||High||Moderate|
|Reno-Northwest||Classic||Moderate to High||High||Moderate|
|Reno-Southeast||Intermix||Moderate to High||High||Moderate|
|Spanish Springs||Intermix||Moderate to High||Moderate||Moderate|
|Steamboat||Intermix||Low to High||High||Moderate|
|Sun Valley||Intermix||Low to Extreme||Moderate||Moderate|
|Verdi||Intermix||Moderate to Extreme||High||Moderate|
|Washoe City||Classic and Intermix||High||High||Moderate|
|Washoe Valley - East||Intermix||Moderate to High||High||Moderate|
|Low Hazard Communities|
|Empire||Intermix||Low to Moderate||Moderate||Low|
|Reno-Southwest||Classic||Low to High||High||Low|
|Sparks||Classic||Low to Moderate||Low||Low|
|Wadsworth||Classic||Low to Moderate||Moderate||Low|
Many Washoe County communities occur in and are further expanding into a fire-prone environment. More than half of the communities evaluated in this report have a high ignition risk. The fire history in Washoe County (Figure 3-2) shows a high occurrence of ignitions and large wildland fires around the majority of the communities. The tendency for dry lightning associated with summer thunderstorm activity and widespread outdoor recreational use across the public forests and rangelands increase the risk of wildfire ignitions.
Several Washoe County communities are rapidly expanding and community boundaries shown in this report will need to be updated on a regular basis. In some cases (particularly Reno Northwest, Reno Southwest, Reno Southeast, and Reno Northeast), the community boundaries encompass geographically diverse conditions, varied fuel conditions, and a wide range of urban development styles. The results reported for these communities represent a general overview of the entire urban-interface condition. More detailed analyses of smaller neighborhoods within these communities would better reflect community risk and hazard conditions at the local level. It is therefore recommended that this follow-up analysis be conducted and that this plan be reviewed and updated at least annually.
Multiple fire suppression agencies in Washoe County including the Reno/Truckee Meadows Fire Department, the Sparks Fire Department, the Nevada Division of Forestry, the Bureau of Land Management, and the US Forest Service have developed mutual aid agreements for initial attack of wildland fires. However in many cases the first responders are volunteer firefighters. Volunteer Fire Departments in Washoe County, supervised by the Nevada Division of Forestry and Reno/Truckee Meadows Fire Department, are equipped with wildland fire suppression apparatus and firefighters receive recommended wildland fire training. Still, volunteer response may not be sufficient during normal work hours, and ignitions on high hazard days may quickly escape initial attack efforts.
The cooperative approach to wildland fire suppression in Washoe County, formally known as the Sierra Front Wildfire Cooperators, has been successful in Washoe County and serves as a model for the rest of the nation. However, many communities in Washoe County are rapidly expanding into the wildland urban interface and the jurisdictional area for existing fire districts is rapidly expanding. The following recommendations are made to promote effective and efficient wildland fire suppression in the interface communities and protect lives, property and natural resources.
It is imperative that Washoe County, the City of Reno, and the City of Sparks continue to require all future development to meet the National Fire Codes with regard to community design, construction materials, housing density, road design and access routes, and water supplies for fire suppression.
Appropriate regulations and ordinances must be developed and enforced to require property owners in existing and future developments to maintain adequate defensible space around their residences in order to reduce hazardous conditions for firefighters and to save lives, property, and natural resources. Enforcement of fuel reduction treatments must also apply to owners of vacant lots and absentee homeowners.
On an individual basis, the most widespread recommendation for Washoe County residents is to create and maintain defensible space. Defensible space is the homeowner’s responsibility, and it is an essential first line of defense for improving firefighter safety and saving lives and property during a catastrophic wildland fire.
Fuelbreaks, greenstrips, and fuel reduction treatments that include tree and brush thinning have been proposed for several Washoe County communities with moderate to extreme fuel hazard conditions adjacent to the communities. These treatments are most effective when constructed across large continuous blocks of land to break up fuel continuity. In some cases these treatments necessarily cross property lines and require cooperation between private property owners and public land management agencies to successfully meet fuel reduction objectives. A summary of the fuel reduction treatments proposed for Washoe County is summarized in Table 1-2.
When implementing proposed fuel reduction treatments and fuelbreaks, the tree density in Jeffrey pine forests is recommended to be reduced to a spacing of 18 to 31 feet between trees when trees are 12 to 18 inches in diameter. A tree thinning guideline for various size trees is given in Appendix E. Pinyon and juniper trees are recommended to be thinned to a spacing equal to twice their height. Tree thinning is not only necessary to reduce hazardous fuel conditions but also to maintain healthy forests and woodlands.
Shrubs are recommended to be removed when they are adjacent to roadways, utility lines, railroads, and other ignition sources or when they are growing beneath large trees creating ladder fuel conditions that could lead to a dangerous and catastrophic crown fire.
To be most effective, fire safe practices need to be implemented on a community-wide basis. There is no guarantee that a wildfire will not occur in any of these communities, even if all of the recommendations in this report are implemented. Nonetheless, public awareness, neighbors helping neighbors, and concerned, proactive individuals setting examples for others to follow are among the most important initiatives involved in reducing the risk of wildfire ignition and managing the hazards inherent in wildland interface areas.
There is no way to completely eliminate the threat of wildfire in the wildland-urban interface. 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 Councilfirstname.lastname@example.org
|Nevada Division of Forestry||Fire Program Coordinator
|Nevada Association of Countiesemail@example.com|
|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
|High and Extreme Hazard Communities|
|Mount Rose Corridor||Shaded fuelbreaks, 300’ x 0.9 mi||34 acres||X||X|
|Washoe Valley - West||Tree thinning along west side of community||1,101 acres||X||X||X|
|Moderate Hazard Communities|
|Cold Springs||Fuelbreak, 200’ x 3.8 mi||92 acres||X||X|
|Galena||Fuelbreak, 300’ x 3.6 mi||133 acres||X||X||X|
|Fuelbreak, 200’ x 2.3 mi||56 acres||X|
|Fuelbreak along State Route 431,
500’ x 2.6 mi
|Tree thinning on private parcels||1,050 acres||X||X|
|Tree thinning within Galena Creek Regional Park||341 acres||X||X|
|Brush thinning||171 acres||X|
|Mogul||Brush thinning||41 acres||X|
|Palomino Valley||Greenstrip along roads, 100’ x 4.8 mi||58 acres||X||X|
|Fuelbreak south along Bacon Rind Road,
150’ x 4.9 mi
|Reno - Northwest||Brush thinning in open space areas||730 acres||X|
|Fuelbreak around Horizon Hills area,
150’ x 2.9 mi
|Fuelbreak on west side of community,
100’ x 4.0 mi
|Reno - Southeast||Fuelbreak south of Steamboat Estates Trailer Park, 100’ x 2.0 mi||25 acres||X||X|
|Sutcliff||Fuelbreak along west side of community,
150’ x 1.0 mi
|Fuelbreak along south side of community,
150’ x 0.6 mi
|Verdi||Greenstrip on north and southeast side of community, 200’ x 5.9 mi||144 acres||X||X|
|Tree thinning on private parcels||406 acres||X|
|Washoe City||Shaded fuelbreak from Joy Lake Road to Davis Creek Park, 200’ x 3.1 mi||76 acres||X||X||X|
|Tree thinning southwest of community including Davis Creek Park||256 acres||X||X||X|
|Washoe Valley - East||Fuelbreak along outside of the community,
200’ x 12.7 mi
|Low Hazard Communities|
|Reno - Southwest||Brush thinning in open space areas||470 acres||X|
|Fuelbreak on west side of community,
200’ x 7.3 mi
|1 Roadside fuelbreak areas are measured from the edge of pavement. Treatment area estimates include both sides of the road.
2 NVST - Nevada State Lands