RCI ReportsCarson City Fire Plan

Executive Summary

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 the Carson City Consolidated Municipality 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 Carson City are listed in Table 1-1.

The Nevada Fire Safe Council contracted with Resource Concepts, Inc. (RCI) to assemble a project team consisting of experts in the fields of fire behavior and suppression, natural resource ecology, and geographic information systems (GIS) to complete the assessment for each Carson City community listed in the Federal Register. The RCI Project Team spent several days inventorying conditions in Carson City and completing the primary data collection and verification portion of the risk assessment.

This report describes in detail the data and information analyzed and considered during the assessment of each community. The general results for each community in the Carson City Consolidated Municipality are summarized in Table 1-1. Four primary factors that affect potential fire hazard were assessed to arrive at the community hazard rating. These factors include community design, defensible space, construction materials, availability of fire suppression resources, and physical conditions such as the vegetative fuel load and topography. Information on fire suppression capabilities and responsibilities for Carson City communities was obtained through interviews with the local Fire Chief and local agency Fire Management Officers.

The RCI Project Team Fire Specialist assigned an ignition risk rating for each community of low, moderate, or high. The rating is 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.

Existing Bureau of Land Management fuel hazard data for the wildland-urban interface was evaluated and field-verified by the RCI Project Team Wildfire Specialists and Natural Resource Specialists. The interface fuel hazard condition was determined to be low, moderate, high, or extreme based upon vegetation composition and structure, slope, and aspect.

Table 1-1. Community Risk and Hazard Assessment Results
Community Interface Condition Interface Fuel Hazard Condition Ignition Risk Rating Community Hazard Rating
Carson City Classic/Intermix Low to High High Moderate
Carson Indian Colony Classic Low to High High Moderate
Clear Creek Intermix Extreme High High
Stewart Classic Moderate High Low

Existing Situation

There is high potential for a catastrophic fire event in the wildland-urban interface area of the Clear Creek community. This elevated hazard rating can be primarily attributed to the extreme fuel hazards and the topographical features present within the community that are associated with potentially dangerous fire behavior. A moderate potential for catastrophic fire exists for the Carson City community and the Carson Indian Colony. The Stewart community was rated with a low potential for a wildland-urban interface fire. Implementation of defensible space and availability and short response time of fire suppression resources partially mitigate the potential for damage and loss of structures due to wildfire throughout the wildland-urban interface areas of the Carson City Consolidated Municipality.

Many homeowners in Carson City and Clear Creek have been aggressive in establishing and maintaining appropriate defensible space around their residences. Numerous agencies have also been proactive in reducing the fuel loads adjacent to many wildland-urban interface areas of the Municipality. Projects completed under the supervision of the Nevada Fire Safe Council Clear Creek Chapter provide an example of collaborative efforts for hazardous fuel reduction involving both homeowners and agencies.


Recommendations in this report focus primarily on efforts that homeowners can initiate and implement to enhance the fire safe nature of their communities. Recommendations prescribed within this report for creating defensible space are the first priority for each community who has not yet reduced fuels on their private property. Defensible space is the homeowner’s responsibility and it is an essential and effective treatment for saving lives and minimizing damage or loss of property during a catastrophic wildland fire.

In the future, Carson City Consolidated Municipality must take a proactive stance on residential development in the wildland-urban interface areas, especially those surrounded by high and extreme fuel hazards. As development continues in the wildland-urban interface, Carson City should revise their existing interface ordinance to require fuel reduction treatments on all planned subdivisions prior to building permit approval and they should create provisions to assure maintenance of the fuel reduction treatments. Revisions should also include mandatory fuel reduction on vacant lots in existing wildland-urban interface subdivisions.

Specific Recommendations for Fuel Reduction Treatments

Recommendations within this report were formulated to mitigate the hazardous conditions for each identified problem area. The recommendations for widely needed treatments to reduce the vegetative fuel load in the interface areas are directed to the Carson City Fire Department, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, the Nevada Division of Forestry, the Nevada Division of State Lands, the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, local Fire Safe Council chapters, and individual property owners. The recommended approach, known as “thinning from below,” involves removal of smaller trees, brush, and dead and down materials to achieve the desired tree densities that would effectively minimize the hazardous ladder fuels that often lead to crown fires. Implementation of the prescribed treatments will also reduce competition among the residual trees for sunlight, water, and space, thus improving forest health. Encouraging the reestablishment of native grasses in order to combat the invasion of cheatgrass, a highly ignitable and combustible fuel, will also mitigate the fire hazard in specific areas.

Excessive amounts of biomass (vegetative fuel) generated from fuel reduction treatments in the Carson City communities will need to be chipped, burned, or removed from the treated areas to achieve the required fuel load reduction.

Carson City Community:

  • Pursue funding for and implement the planned and scheduled fuelbreaks and fuel reduction treatments for the Carson City community in the areas of Pinyon Hills, Mexican Dam, North Carson, West Carson, and C-Hill. Fuel reduction specifications include using mechanized mastication equipment and hand crews to thin and remove brush, prune trees, and seed grass species adapted to the area in linear areas between 100 and 300 feet wide. In total, the estimated area recommended for treatment in Carson City is 220 acres.

Clear Creek Community:

  • Coordinate with each property owner, the Carson City Fire Department, the Nevada Division of Forestry, and the responsible administrative agency to implement landscape-wide treatments to reduce tree stands to a basal area of 80 square feet per acre as well as reduce and remove brush ladder fuels from beneath all tree crowns in the proposed 1,690-acre treatment area (see Figure 7-1). The existing Clear Creek chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council can facilitate agency coordination and help identify funding opportunities. (Recommendations from Dynamac 2003)
  • Create a shaded fuelbreak 100 to 150 feet wide and 1.2 miles in length on both US Forest Service land and private land in T14N, R19E, Section 4 and T15N, R19E, Section 33. Trees should be thinned to a crown spacing of at least twenty feet with trees limbed to fifteen feet from the ground and brush cover reduced to thirty percent or less. The fuelbreak should be seeded with perennial bunch grasses to reduce weed invasions, fire threats, and erosion potential.
  • Create a fuelbreak 150-feet wide and 1.2 miles long in T14N, R19E, Section 2. The shaded fuelbreak should extend from the east to west across Section 2, running along the slope at the base of the ridge parallel to Clear Creek. The RCI Project Team recommends that any fuel reduction treatments in this area be evaluated on a site-specific basis due to slope, access, and riparian concerns.

To be most effective, fire safe practices, including evacuation planning, 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 just some of the approaches necessary to reduce the risk of wildfire ignition and the hazards inherent in wildland-urban interface areas.