RCI ReportsDouglas County Fire Plan

4.0 County-Wide Assessment Results

4.1 County-wide Risk and Hazard Assessment Overview

During June of 2004 the RCI Project Team evaluated fifteen of the communities listed below. Assessments of six other communities were completed under separate contracts. The assessment results and recommendations for the six additional communities are included in this report. The overall results of the community risk/hazard assessments are summarized in Table 4-1.

Table 4-1. Summary of Community Risk/Hazard Assessment Results
Community Interface Classification Interface Fuel Hazard Conditions Ignition Risk Rating Community Hazard Rating
Alpine View Intermix High to Extreme High Moderate
Bodie Flats Intermix High to Extreme High Extreme
China Springs Intermix / Rural Low to Extreme High High
Dresslerville Classic Low to Moderate Low* Moderate*
East Valley Intermix Moderate Moderate Low
Fish Springs Intermix High High High
Gardnerville Classic Low Low Low
Gardnerville Ranchos Classic Low Low Low
Genoa Intermix Low to Extreme High High
Holbrook Junction Intermix Moderate to Extreme High High
Jacks Valley/Indian Hills Classic / Intermix Low to High High Moderate
Job’s Peak Ranch Intermix Moderate to High High High*
Johnson Lane Classic / Intermix Low to High Moderate Moderate
Minden Classic Low Low Low
North Foothill Road Corridor Intermix Low to Extreme High High
Pine Nut Creek Intermix High High* High*
Ruhenstroth Intermix Moderate to High Moderate Moderate
Sheridan Acres Intermix Low to Extreme High High
Spring Valley/Double Springs Intermix Low to High High* High*
Topaz Lake Intermix Low to High High Moderate
Topaz Ranch Estates Intermix Low to Extreme High High

4.1.1 Wildfire Protection Resources

The Douglas County East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts (EFFPD) and the Nevada Division of Forestry Sierra Forest Fire Protection District are responsible for fire protection on the private land in Douglas County. NDF is responsible for wildfire suppression on private lands within the Sierra Forest Fire Protection District, which includes the communities of Jacks Valley / Indian Hills, Alpine View, Sheridan Acres, North Foothill Road Corridor, and Job’s Peak Ranch. NDF contracts with EFFPD to provide all risk emergency services (with the exception of wildfire suppression) within the Sierra Forest Fire Protection District. The EFFPD is a 40-member career department that also includes approximately 200 volunteer and four seasonal firefighters.

The BLM Carson City Field Office is the primary agency responsible for wildland fire suppression on public lands within the county (161,622 acres). BLM also has an agreement with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide suppression on tribal lands (3,647 acres) and Indian allotment lands in the Pine Nut Mountains. The US Forest Service Carson Ranger District Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is the primary agency responsible for wildland fire suppression on National Forest lands within the county (80,752-acres). The Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center in Minden, Nevada dispatches BLM, USFS, and NDF suppression resources through a computer-aided dispatch system.

Wildland firefighting suppression resources are available throughout Douglas County through mutual aid agreements with the BLM Carson City Field Office, US Forest Service Carson Ranger District Office, Nevada Division of Forestry, Carson City Fire Department, Sierra Front Wildfire Cooperators, Lake Tahoe Regional Fire Chief’s Association, Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District, and Mono County. The USFS, BLM, and NDF usually provide one seasonal engine crew each to Douglas County between June 1 and October 15. The USFS usually stations a hotshot crew at the Minden Airport during fire season and the EFFPD stations a seasonal engine at the Gardnerville Ranchos (Station 7).

Tables 4-2 and 4-3 summarize the types of wildfire suppression resources, cooperating partners, and equipment available for first alarm and initial attack of wildland fires in Douglas County. The availability of resources may vary depending on time of year and resource needs in other areas, especially from federal agencies. The EFFPD second alarm to a wildland-urban interface fire in Douglas County would double the resources included in the first alarm.

Table 4-2. East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts Equipment Available for First-Alarm Response to a Wildland-Urban Interface Fire
Type of Equipment Amount of Equipment Cooperating Partner
(Resource Location)
Type 1 Engine
Type 3 Brush Truck
Battalion Chief
Duty Chief
Rescue Ambulance
Water Tender
East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts
Source: Personal Communication with Steve Eisele East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal
Table 4-3. Maximum Level of Equipment Available for Initial Attack of a Wildland-Urban Interface Fire (during a high hazard day) from Cooperating Partners in Douglas County
Type of Equipment Amount of Equipment Cooperating Partner
(Resource Location)
Type 3 Engine
Battalion Chief/Duty Officer
Water Tender
Hand Crew
Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) or Air Tanker and Lead Plane*
Air Attack*
*Air suppression response only if smoke is visible

Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Minden, Nevada
(Closest available resources from NDF,BLM,USFS)
Source: Personal Communication with Steve Eisele East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts Deputy Chief/Fire Marshal; Rich Riolo Nevada Division of Forestry Fire Prevention Chief; Leonard Waking BLM Carson City Field Office Fire Management Officer; and Mike Polovina Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center Manager.

The BLM Carson Filed Office has provided Volunteer Fire Departments in Douglas County with Rural Fire Assistance (RFA) grants in the amount of approximately $87,000 over the last three years that were made available through the National Fire Plan. The intent of the Rural Fire Assistance Program is to provide funds to Volunteer Fire Departments for their wildland suppression program. Funds to towards purchasing personal protective equipment, communications equipment, fire suppression equipment and wildland fire prevention programs. The RFA program applications for 2005 are currently being submitted to the BLM.

4.1.2 Water Sources and Infrastructure

Water availability for fire suppression resources for Douglas County include:

  • Community wells,
  • 500 gpm hydrants within 500 feet of structures for about seventy percent of residences,
  • Helicopter dip sites, and
  • Water storage tanks in the areas of East Valley, Fish Springs, Spring Valley/Double Springs, Pine View Estates, Fredericksburg, Tomerlin Ranch Subdivision, Holbrook Junction, Topaz Range Estates, Topaz Lake, Ruhenstroth, Jacks Valley/Indian Hills, Genoa, Job’s Peak Ranch, Johnson Lane, Gardnerville, and the Gardnerville Ranchos.

Generally, either gravity or pumps pressurize the water systems. Most of the pressure pumps or wells have emergency back-up generators, except at Topaz Lake, Topaz Ranch Estates, Sheridan Acres, and Fish Springs. The existing infrastructure for the water delivery systems in Douglas County meets the 2000 Uniform Fire Code standards.

Hydrants are not available in the Fish Springs, Topaz Ranch Estates, Topaz Lake, Ruhenstroth, and some areas of East Valley, Sheridan Acres, Genoa, the Foothill Road Corridor, and Jacks Valley. The hydrants at the north end of Jacks Valley and in the Sheridan Acres areas do not meet the 2000 Uniform Fire Code. There are several helicopter dip sites located around Douglas County including the Carson River, Topaz Lake, and ponds in the Willow Bend subdivision. The Genoa Lakes Golf Course also has water hazards that could be used for dip sites. Reservoir dip sites are available in East Valley. Homeowner pools may also be used as dip sites when permission is obtained.

4.1.3 Detection and Communication

Fires are reported in Douglas County through 911 calls and calls directly to the Douglas County Sheriff Dispatch. Fires may also be detected through reconnaissance flights conducted by federal agencies. Fires are communicated to fire response personnel through radios and pagers. Douglas County Dispatch uses a computer-aided dispatch system and either retains or releases communication and dispatch responsibilities to Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch for wildland-urban interface fires depending upon fire jurisdiction and level of response (e.g. when the Sierra Front Management Team is called in for a fire, Douglas County will release dispatch responsibility to Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch). The EFFPD has access to the state mutual aid frequencies and their radio system is compatible with neighboring agencies; however, there are some areas of the county without radio coverage.

The Sierra Forest Fire Protection District (NDF), Bureau of Land Management, and US Forest Service fire personnel and equipment are dispatched through the Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center in Minden, Nevada.

4.1.4 Fire Protection Personnel Qualifications

The EFFPD firefighters have been trained to meet basic National Fire Protection Association structural, wildland, and EMS standards. Red Card certifications are required for all EFFPD firefighters responding out of the primary district response area. 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’s qualifications to fight wildland fires.

4.1.5 Work Load

The East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts responded to 41 wildland fires in Douglas County in 2003. The Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center, which dispatches for the USFS Carson and Bridgeport Ranger Districts, BLM Carson City District, and NDF Western Region, which include portions of Carson City, Douglas, Lyon, Churchill, Pershing, Mineral, and Washoe Counties in Nevada, reported these agencies responding to 234 wildfires in 2004 (Polovina pers. comm.)

4.1.6 Financial Support

Funding for the East Fork Fire District is provided primarily through ad valorem property tax as well as from county sales tax revenue. The East Fork Paramedic District is provided funding solely through ad valorem property tax. The Sierra Forest Fire Protection District is provided funding through ad valorem property tax and county sales tax revenue.

4.1.7 Community Preparedness

Douglas County has an active Local Emergency Planning Committee and has adopted an emergency response mitigation plan that covers all risks. The emergency plan was last updated in 1999. The Douglas County FEMA plan covers wildland fires, earthquakes, and floods. The Sierra Front Wildfire Cooperators dispatch run cards for initial attack are updated annually prior to the start of each fire season. The EFFPD and Sierra Forest Fire Protection District participate in the annual pre-attack meetings. Both fire districts review new development plans for their respective districts within the county.

The Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center uses WildCad (computer aided dispatch system) to dispatch initial attack fire suppression resources to wildland fire incidents. The response areas in WildCad are updated annually prior to fire season. Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch Center also has pre-attack plans developed in 1986 for the Fredricksburg and Genoa areas. These plans include travel maps, topographic maps, facility locations for incident command posts, water supply locations, basic fuel maps, and aerial photos. These pre-attack plans are now out of date and need to be updated.

The East Fork Fire and Paramedic District is currently working on establishing a defensible space program within the county. During the summer of 2004, a seasonal engine crew conducted defensible space surveys and provided public education to homeowners in Douglas County. The BLM Carson Field Office has also sponsored a Student Conservation Association Fire Education Corp Team to conduct defensible space evaluations for homeowners in Fish Springs, Pine Nut Creek, and Ruhenstroth. The Education Corp Team was coordinated by the EFFPD and local volunteer fire departments. These Douglas County programs is anticipated to expand over the next several years. Further information on defensible space programs and open burning dates and regulations is available on the East Fork Fire and Paramedic District has web page (http://effpd.co.douglas.nv.us/).

The BLM Carson Field Office has provided EFFPD with $200,000 over the past four years through National Fire Plan grant funding for the Douglas County “Compost Your Combustibles” program several times a year. This program allows homeowners to dispose of vegetation (biomass) removed from around their homes without being charged. The successful program has been in effect in Douglas County since the late 1990’s.

Prior to burning, Douglas County residents must call the Douglas County Dispatch Center at (775) 782-9969 to determine whether or not burning is permitted that day. For residents who live in Jacks Valley/Indian Hills, Alpine View, or the west side of Foothill Road, open burning is prohibited unless a site inspection is completed and a burn permit is issued by the EFFPD.

The Douglas County Road Maintenance Department, Town of Minden, Town of Gardnerville, individual general improvement districts, individual homeowners associations, and the Nevada Department of Transportation perform rights-of-way clearance on public streets in Douglas County. The Carson Valley Weed District is responsible for noxious weed abatement.

4.2 County-wide Recommendations

Risk and hazard reduction recommendations for Douglas County address the primary concern regarding protection of existing and future development in the wildland-urban interface areas within the county. Other recommendations pertain to community coordination and public education efforts that could be undertaken to enhance fire safety in Douglas County.

4.2.1 Fuel Reduction Treatments

Fuel reduction treatments are applied on a larger scale than defensible space treatments. By permanently changing the fuel structure over large blocks of land to one of lower volume or reduced flammability (a fuel reduction treatment), the expected result in the event of a catastrophic wildfire would be one of reduced capacity for uncontrolled spread through the treatment area.

East Fork Fire And Paramedic Districts, Bureau of Land Management, and US Forest Service Recommendations

  • Continue the “Compost your Combustibles” program that provides a location for homeowners to dispose of their vegetation clippings from defensible space implementation. Provide this or a similar service for vegetation (biomass) accumulations resulting from fuelbreak construction around communities.

Douglas County, General Improvement Districts, Homeowner Associations, and Nevada Department of Transportation Recommendations

  • In areas with sagebrush-dominated vegetation, remove shrubs for a distance of 25-feet on each side of community roads. In areas where the vegetation is dominated by pinyon and juniper trees, remove trees and shrubs for a distance of 50-feet on each side of the community roads. Seed these fuel reduction areas with an appropriate fire resistant seed mix such as provided in Appendix D.

4.2.2 Fire Suppression Capabilities

Proper maintenance, storage, and acquisition of fire suppression equipment along with regular and appropriate firefighter training increases fire suppression capability for those areas where fire protection is available. Improving the visibility of street and address signs increases the ease of navigation for those unfamiliar with the area under smoky conditions that are common during a wildland fire.

East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts and Nevada Division of Forestry Recommendations

  • Remove or mow vegetation within ten feet of hydrants to improve visibility and access for fire personnel.
  • Continue enforcement of the burn permit programs.
  • Coordinate with Douglas County to identify appropriate private and public ponds along the Carson River for use as helicopter dip sites.
  • Develop specific agreements with private landowners for designating helicopter dip sites and landings prior to a wildfire event.
  • Continue to relocate fire suppression resources throughout the county in response to localized lightning storm activity.
  • Update the Douglas County pre-attack plans and develop new plans where needed. These plans should include locations for helibases, staging areas, safe zones, aerial photos, and incident command post locations, and the locations of previous fuel reduction project areas. The pre-attack plans should be made available to mutual aid fire suppression resources and incident management teams when assisting local resources during an emergency.

4.2.3 Public Education

Increased public education on fire safety is critical in communities that have rapidly growing populations, especially when many of the areas being developed are larger lots scattered throughout wildland fuels. People moving into the area may be unfamiliar with fire prone environments.

East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts and Nevada Division of Forestry Recommendations

  • Coordinate with the Bureau of Land Management, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, and Nevada Division of Forestry to conduct public education, showcase good examples of defensible space, and participate in annual fire awareness programs.
  • Distribute copies of the publication “Living With Fire” to all property owners who live in wildland-urban interface subdivisions in Douglas County. This publication is free of charge and can be requested from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

4.2.4 Wildland-Urban Interface Policy

Douglas County Commission Recommendations

  • Require all future development in the Douglas County to comply with the most stringent fire code and standards with regards to construction materials, road design, and water supply systems.
  • Adopt a County ordinance regarding fuel reduction and defensible space requirements for wildland-urban interface areas. Require defensible space implementation on all developed and undeveloped lots within interface areas. If landowners do not complete defensible space treatments within a specified time frame, authorize EFFPD to charge the landowner for defensible space services through property tax levies. Require fuel reduction treatments prior to approval of new wildland-urban interface subdivisions and require approval of defensible space implementation prior to issuing building permits.

East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts and Nevada Division of Forestry Recommendations

  • Expand the opportunities for engine companies to conduct annual defensible space inspections within their response area. Provide homeowners with inspection reports and recommended actions.