RCI ReportsDouglas 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 included in the Community Wildfire Risk/Hazard Assessment project are among those named in the 2001 Federal Register list of Communities at high risk of wildfire within the vicinity of Federal lands (66 FR 160). The list identifies Nevada communities adjacent to federal lands that are most vulnerable to wildfire in Nevada.

Resource Concepts, Inc. (RCI), a Carson City consulting firm, was selected to conduct the Community Risk/Hazard Assessments. During 2004, the RCI Project Team visited over 250 communities in seventeen Nevada counties to assess both the risk of ignition and the potential fire behavior hazard. Procedures accepted by Nevada’s wildland fire agencies were used to reach consistent and objective evaluations of each community.

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

  • Assess the wildfire hazards present in each community on the Federal Register list of Communities at Risk in Nevada.
  • Identify firefighting resource needs (equipment and infrastructure).
  • Conduct fuel hazard mapping for high hazard communities.
  • Describe proposed risk and hazard mitigation projects in enough detail to aid communities in applying for future implementation funds.
  • Distribute assessment results and proposed mitigation project descriptions to each County in a format that will be easily updated and useful for public meetings and other public education activities.

The community risk/hazard assessments were conducted systematically for each community. The RCI Project Team observed and recorded the factors that significantly influence the risk of wildfire ignition along the wildland-urban interface and inventoried features that may be hazardous in the event of a wildfire. Interviews with local fire agency and emergency response personnel were completed to assess the availability and capability of suppression resources and to identify opportunities for increased community preparedness. A description of the existing fuel hazard and potential fire behavior are discussed for each community. Photo points and fuel hazard maps are presented for each community where the community hazard rating is high or extreme.

The results of each community assessment are formatted to facilitate ease of reference and reproduction for individual communities. Each community is mapped and ignition risks, fire hazards, and recommended mitigation projects are described for each community. The recommendations are summarized in table form and presented on a map, if the proposed mitigation project can be graphically represented. 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 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 (USFS)
  • Nevada Division of Forestry (NDF)
  • University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE)
  • Nevada Association of Counties (NACO)
  • Nevada’s Counties
  • Fire chiefs and firefighters statewide

1.2 Communities Assessed

Twenty communities at risk of wildfire were identified within Douglas County (Federal Register 66 FR 160). The communities listed for the Lake Tahoe Basin portion of Douglas County were assessed and reported separately and include: Glenbrook, Kingsbury, and Stateline (RCI 2004).

Community risk/hazard assessments for the remaining Douglas County communities on the federal register list were completed by the Resource Concepts Team and include:

  • Alpine View
  • Gardnerville Ranchos
  • North Foothill Road Corridor
  • Bodie Flats
  • Genoa
  • Ruhenstroth
  • China Springs
  • Jacks Valley/Indian Hills
  • Sheridan Acres
  • East Valley
  • Johnson Lane
  • Topaz Lake
  • Gardnerville
  • Minden
  • Topaz Ranch Estates

The results of previous wildfire risk and hazard assessments for other Douglas County communities were reviewed by RCI and are also incorporated into this report include:

  • Holbrook Junction (RCI 2002)
  • Spring Valley/Double Springs (SWCA Environmental Consultants 2003)
  • Clear Creek (Dynamac, Inc. 2003)
  • Dresslerville (SWCA Environmental Consultants 2002)
  • Fish Springs (Blackbull Wildfire Services 2004)
  • Job’s Peak Ranch (Blackbull Wildfire Services 2004)
  • Pine Nut Creek (Blackbull Wildfire Services 2004)

1.3 Communities Not Assessed

1.3.1 Spooner State Park

The Spooner Lake Unit of Lake Tahoe State Park was included on the Federal Register list; however, no residential homes or commercial properties exist within the State Park. The Spooner Lake Unit of the park is located in the western portions of both Carson City and Douglas County along US Highway 50 in the southern portion of Lake Tahoe State Park. Because there is no permanent community, very few structures, and no features listed in the National Register of Historic Places within the State Park, the risk/hazard assessment was not completed. However, the Spooner Lake Unit of the State Park is listed as a critical feature potentially at risk and described further in Section 3.3.

There may be additional rural areas or small subdivisions in Douglas County that were not included on the Federal Register list, and thus not included in the scope of this project. Conditions in and around some of these communities may warrant future individual hazard/risk assessment. However, many of the recommendations developed for similar communities in this report may apply to these additional areas.