Wildfire Rehabilitation and Fuels Management Planning
Major catastrophic wildfires have devastated natural resources throughout the West. Fires are now occurring at a greater frequency, on greater acreage, and have more destructive forces than ever before. Resource Concepts Inc., a recognized expert in this field, has been active in this arena since 1988, when it conducted a state-wide wildfire study for the State of Nevada. Predictions from that report and the recommended measures are presently being actively pursued throughout the state. RCI fields a multi-disciplinary team of top professionals to address all aspects of wildfires for pre-suppression planning and post wildfire reclamation. The following lists RCI’s services and examples of projects carried out by our team:
- Fuels Management
- Fire Rehabilitation
- Risk / Hazard Assessments
- Community Plans
- Public Land Allotment Planning
- Private Land Fuels Management
Carson City Waterfall Fire Fuels Management Plan/Carson City Public Works
Beginning in the spring of 2005, Resource Concepts, Inc. provided technical assistance to Carson City in organizing several partnering agencies in the creation of a fuels reduction plan, primarily focused on strategically employing sheep grazing at critical periods of plant growth. The primary target species for the project was cheatgrass, which was well established on the slopes west of Curry Street, on C-Hill, and at varying densities in the interface area along the wildlands interface of west Carson City extending north to Lakeview. Perennial grasses, including pubescent wheatgrass and crested wheatgrass, survived the Waterfall fire on C-Hill also made good recovery last year. Because of the exceptional moisture during late 2005 and early 2006, those perennials, along with cheatgrass, produced large amounts of biomass available for carrying fire.
The Carson City Fire Dept, Nevada Division of Forestry, and US Forest Service developed a fuels management prescription for the interface locations along C-Hill. Resource Concepts, Inc. developed a fuels management plan utilizing sheep grazing to reduce the fuels according to the fuel reduction prescription. RCI coordinated with several interested agencies and the sheep producer to assure that a coordinated effort in meeting the project objectives. RCI conducted utilization monitoring during the entire length of the grazing project and worked with Carson City to complete an end-of-growing season evaluation of the fuel conditions.
Carson City Waterfall Fire Rehabilitation Assessment/Carson City Public Works
Beginning with the Waterfall fire of 2004, Resource Concepts, Inc. (RCI) represented Carson City on the BAER team watershed assessment and emergency revegetation efforts. RCI worked with agency specialists to develop site-specific seeding recommendations for various parts of the watershed, and also participated in soils and hydrology analysis with the US Forest Service Specialists on the BAER team. RCI conducted a field evaluation of proposed helicopter landing sites in Ash Canyon and worked extensively to develop a Timber Harvest Plan (THP) for the watershed area.
During the summer of 2005, RCI Foresters marked trees, coordinated with Nevada Division of Forestry, and provided daily inspection for Carson City during the Sierra Pacific Industries, Inc. salvage logging operation. RCI provided recommendations regarding erosion control, road and landing decommissioning, and forest health. In August of 2005, RCI monitored the post-fire vegetation treatments and provided a detailed report of the site conditions. RCI conducted a hydrologic analysis and began developing an engineering design for the Kings Canyon intake, which was affected by the fire. Topographic surveys were completed for both the Phase 1, and future Phase II activities, for the expansion of the existing basin at the outlet of Vicee Canyon.
Risk / Hazard Assessments
Nevada Statewide Wildfire Risk/Hazard Assessment Project
Resource Concepts, Inc. completed individual wildfire risk and hazard assessments for 239 communities in 16 Nevada counties and the Carson City Consolidated Municipality. The project required extensive travel and logistical planning to obtain site-specific data from rural and remote communities. RCI risk assessments included descriptions of vegetative fuels, estimates of fuel loads (tons/acre), and maps of fuel hazard conditions within the wildland/urban interface. The RCI Fire Specialist assigned an ignition risk rating for each community of low, moderate, or high. The rating was based upon historical ignition patterns; opinions of local, state, and federal fire agency personnel; community field visits; and professional judgments based on experience with wildland fire ignitions in Nevada. The risk/hazard assessment project also included the development of wildfire mitigation recommendations for each community. The extensive amount of fieldwork required for the project was consistently completed ahead of schedule and often below budget. The extensive amount of field data collected was efficiently compiled into Access and GIS databases for easy data retrieval and report preparation.
Carson City Parks and Recreation/Fuels Reduction Plan
The Carson City Parks and Recreation Open Space Manager retained Resource Concepts, Inc. to develop project objectives and write a fuels reduction plan for the wildland-urban interface on the west side of Carson City. Sheep grazing was chosen as the appropriate management tool. RCI coordinated with several fire and natural resource agencies to develop fuels reduction specifications, complete treatment implementation, and monitor treatment results. RCI’s report described the treatment results and provided recommendations for similar sheep grazing in the future to reduce the wildfire risk to Carson City residents.
Holbrook Junction Community Wildfire Risk Assessment and Fuel Reduction Plan
RCI was retained by the Nevada Fire Safe Council to conduct a wildfire risk assessment and fuel reduction plan for the Holbrook Junction community in Douglas County, Nevada. The overall objective of the project was to identify wildfire risks and develop strategies for fuel treatments to reduce the hazard to homes in the interface community. The project area was approximately 640 acres and included 50 homes. RCI compiled existing digital information on slope, aspect, and roads, and conducted field investigations to compile information on building materials, access, fuel types, and defensible space. The procedures developed by the Nevada Wildland Fire Agencies Board of Directors, entitled Community Wildland Fire Assessment for Existing Wildland Residential Interface Developments in Nevada, were used to evaluate the risk factors, which resulted in placing the Community in the high-risk category. Two fuel management zones were delineated and fuel treatment recommendations were described and prioritized for each zone, as well as for the Community as a whole. The worst-case wildfire scenario was described for the Community, which helped to prioritize specific treatment recommendations. Local regulations, codes, and ordinances were researched to assure that hazard reduction recommendations were consistent with existing policies. A Homeowner Checklist was provided to homeowners to assist them in maintaining fire-safe conditions around their property. GIS analyses were used to compile fire risk data and graphically present the risk analyses and treatment plan results.
Wildfire Risk Assessment and Fuel Reduction Plan for the Communities of Pioche, Panaca, Caliente, and the Mt. Wilson Guest Ranch Community – Lincoln County, Nevada
Lincoln County was successful in obtaining a National Fire Plan Grant, through the Nevada Division of Forestry for a wildfire risk assessment and fuel reduction plan for four rural Nevada communities: Caliente, Pioche, Panaca, and the Mount Wilson Guest Ranch Community. RCI was retained to complete the assessment and plan. RCI compiled existing data and conducted field reconnaissance of each community to conduct the wildfire risk assessment. Risk factors included: topography, fuel types and fuel density, road and driveway accessibility, fire suppression resources and response time, construction materials, landscaping around homes, and the wildfire history surrounding each of the communities.
Each community was evaluated independently and ranked using the Community Wildland Fire Assessment developed and revised by Nevada’s Wildland Fire Agencies Board of Directors. The Town of Pioche and the Mt. Wilson Guest Ranch Community ranked in the extreme hazard category, while Caliente and Panaca were rated in the moderate hazard category. Prioritized fuels management recommendations were developed according to the hazard mitigations needs for each community. GIS analysis was used to display information pertinent to each area including roads, wildfire history, land ownership, and the recommended fuel treatments. USGS Digital Orthophoto Quads and high-resolution aerial photos were used as base maps for the project. A large poster and four individual community posters were created depicting the specific treatment recommendations for each community and general defensible space concepts. The posters, Homeowner Fact Sheets, and a PowerPoint presentation were used to present the results of the project to the local public and regional fire agencies. The risk assessments and plans were used by Lincoln County to secure additional funding for implementation of the recommendations. Implementation of the plans is expected to commence immediately.
Community Wildfire Risk Assessment and Fuel Reduction Plan for the Virginia Highlands Community
A group of self-directed citizens concerned with wildfire safety issues from the Virginia Highlands Community in Storey County, Nevada formed the Fire Safe Highlands Coalition. This group and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension contracted RCI to conduct a wildfire risk assessment and prepare a plan to reduce wildfire hazards. In accordance with the preference of Fire Safe Highlands, RCI, with assistance from Gnomon, Inc., used an ecological approach to the evaluation which included: review of existing wildfire hazard data; compilation of ecological site data; and determination of current ecological condition and trend of the native vegetation communities. On this basis, in addition to reducing the wildfire hazard, RCI was able to provide an ecological justification for tree thinning and creation of defensible space that was easily understood by the homeowners. The diversity of topography, access, and fuel types within the project area resulted in the delineation of four hazard zones. Recommendations to reduce risks were developed specifically for each zone. Recommendations addressed emergency access issues, driveway access, address identification, building codes, and fuel reduction. GIS analyses and mapping were used in developing the fire hazard ratings and hazard zones. Fuel treatment handouts and a large wall poster depicting hazards and proposed treatments were used in a public presentation of the project results. Many of the recommendations are currently being implemented.
Public Land Allotment Planning
Wildfire Support Group
RCI assists the Wildfire Support Group, a non-profit group of ranchers trained for wildland fire suppression, in furthering their mission of slowing the invasion of annual grasses and loss of native shrub-grassland ecosystems in the Great Basin. RCI has recommended ecologically appropriate pre-suppression methods to decrease the occurrence and severity of catastrophic wildfires that are subsequently invaded with cheatgrass. RCI specialists have developed grazing plans to address natural resource conservation objectives on public lands, control cheatgrass production, breakup fuel bed continuity, and reduce the fuel loads for eleven public land grazing allotments totaling 489,000 acres.
Private Land Fuels Management
RCI has worked with numerous private landowners to assess their particular operations, fuel types, and identify risks or hazards, as well as develop fuels management plans tailored to each. Examples include the Falen Ranch, the Frey Ranch, and the Youngberg Ranch located in the Quinn River Valley in northeastern Nevada.