RCI ReportsDouglas County Fire Plan

17.0 Johnson Lane

17.1 Hazard and Risk Assessment

The Johnson Lane community is located in northern Douglas County southeast of Jacks Valley/Indian Hills and northeast of Minden, Nevada. The community is situated on a west-facing alluvial fan. The community is bordered by public lands to the north and east, by private agricultural lands to the west, and by the airport to the south. Approximately 1,200 homes were observed in the community during the assessment. The hazard assessment resulted in classifying Johnson Lane in the Moderate Hazard category (44 points). A summary of the factors that determine this hazard rating is included in Table 17-2. The primary factors mitigating the fire hazard for the Johnson Lane community included the presence of adequate ingress and egress routes, low potential for extreme fire behavior, proper street and house address identification, and the degree of defensible space implementation.

17.1.1 Community Design

The Johnson Lane community has characteristics of both the classic interface and the intermix wildland-urban interface conditions. The classic interface is characterized by areas where subdivisions border wildland fuels with a clear line of demarcation between the fuels and the residences. Lot sizes are primarily less than one acre throughout the classic interface areas of the community, such as the Wildhorse subdivision. A characteristics of the intermix interface condition include structures scattered throughout the wildland area with no clear line of demarcation between wildland fuels and the lands and buildings of the community. In the intermix condition parcels are generally greater than one acre (see Figure 17-1).

  • Roads: Stephanie Lane and Johnson Lane are the primary access roads to the community from US Highway 395. The primary roads are paved, greater than 24 feet wide, and provide adequate access for fire suppression vehicles. Most of the secondary community roads have adequate turn around space for fire suppression equipment, and community roads have less than a five percent grade.
  • Signage: Street names are adequately identified with reflective letter signs. Residential addresses were visible on a majority of the homes assessed. Clear and visible residential addresses are important to aid firefighting personnel in locating homes during low visibility conditions that occur during a wildland fire.
  • Utilities: Both overhead and underground power lines are present within the community. Power line right- of-ways were properly maintained to minimize the possibility of power lines sparking during windstorms and starting fires in nearby vegetation.

17.1.2 Construction Materials

Approximately fourteen percent of the homes assessed had wood shake roofing materials. The remainder of the homes assessed were built with fire resistant siding materials and non-combustible roofing materials, mainly composition type roofing. About seven percent of the homes observed have unenclosed balconies, porches, decks, or other architectural features that create drafts and provide areas where sparks and firebrands can be trapped, smolder, ignite, and rapidly spread fire to the home.

17.1.3 Defensible Space

Over ninety percent of the homes in the community wildland-urban interface have landscaping that would meet the minimum defensible space requirement to help protect the home from damage or loss during a wildfire.

17.1.4 Suppression Capabilities

Wildfire Protection Resources

The East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts Johnson Lane Volunteer Fire Department Station 6 provides wildland and structure fire protection to the Johnson Lane community. At the time of the assessment, the Johnson Lane VFD listed thirty volunteers on its roster. The Johnson Lane VFD conducts an annual fire safety day at the Pinon Hills elementary school (East Fork Fire Protection District website). See Tables 4-2 and 4-3 for more information on the typical fire suppression response for first-alarm wildland-urban interface fires in Douglas County. Appendix E lists the type and number of fire suppression vehicles located at each EFFPD career staffed and VFD station.

Water Sources and Infrastructure

Water availability for fire suppression in Johnson Lane includes four water storage tanks with a total capacity of three million gallons. There are emergency generators for the pumps that fill the tanks. There are hydrants available in the more recently developed portions of the community, however hydrants are not available for the larger lots and older subdivisions. The Carson River may be used as a helicopter dip site.

17.1.5 Factors Affecting Fire Behavior

Vegetation, dead and down fuels, and topographic features contribute to the potential fire hazard around wildland-urban interface communities. The terrain around Johnson Lane is generally flat with a slightly west-facing aspect on less than five percent slopes. Fire ignitions have occurred within the vicinity of the community from both human and lightning causes. The predominant wind direction is from the south/southwest especially in the late afternoon.

The vegetative fuel density in the Johnson Lane community was generally moderate, estimated at less than three tons per acre. Dominant shrubs in the community include Wyoming big sagebrush, rabbitbrush, desert peach, Mormon tea, fourwing saltbush and spiny hopsage. The ground fuels consist of Indian ricegrass, basin wildrye, bottlebrush squirreltail, needleandthread grass, and cheatgrass. Typical shrub heights range between two and six feet. The fuel hazard was considered moderate for the majority of the area surrounding the community. Within the community the vegetation was similar to outside the community, however it was reduced in density and continuity due to development lowering the fuel hazard. The irrigated agricultural lands on the west and south sides of the community were also considered a low fuel hazard.

In the northeast section of the community, the vegetative fuels consist of big sagebrush, Mormon tea, bitterbrush, and rabbitbrush, with an understory of bottlebrush squirreltail and sparse cheatgrass, and desert needlegrass. The shrub heights range from two to six feet with spacing between shrubs as close as four feet. Most of the bitterbrush plants were either dead or dying, which increases the high flammability of fuels in this area. The fuel hazard was considered high and the fuel load was estimated between four and six tons per acre.

17.1.6 Fire Behavior Worst Case Scenario

The worst-case scenario for Johnson Lane would likely occur in the event of a dry lightning or human-caused ignition located southwest but in close proximity to the community. With south or southwest winds exceeding 25 miles per hour, a fire could rapidly spread through the sagebrush fuels and quickly threaten homes. Spot fires could ignite the brush and grass throughout the intermix portion of the community, which could result in multiple fires burning in the community. This situation could quickly exceed the initial attack capabilities of the Johnson Lane Volunteer Fire Department.

17.1.7 Ignition Risk Assessment

Johnson Lane has been rated with a moderate ignition risk. Several ignitions have occurred within and immediately adjacent to the community (Figure 17-1). The predominant ignition risk for Johnson Lane is dry lightning.

17.2 Risk and Hazard Reduction Recommendations

The Johnson Lane risk and hazard reduction recommendations focus on improving defensible space and promoting homeowner responsibilities. Other recommendations pertain to community coordination efforts that could be initiated to enhance the fire safe nature of Johnson Lane.

17.2.1 Defensible Space Treatments

Property Owner Recommendations

Defensible space treatments are an essential first line of defense for residential structures. Significantly reducing or removing vegetation within a prescribed distance from structures (minimum of 30 feet to 200 feet depending upon slope and vegetative fuel type) reduces fire intensity and improves firefighter and homeowner chances for successfully defending a structure against an oncoming wildfire.

  • Remove, reduce, and replace vegetation around homes according to the guidelines in Appendix D. This area should be kept:
    • Lean: There are only small amounts of flammable vegetation,
    • Clean: There is no accumulation of dead vegetation or other flammable debris,
    • Green: Existing plants are healthy and green during the fire season.
  • Maintain the area beneath unenclosed wood decks and porches free of weeds and flammabledebris. Enclose these areas wherever possible.
  • Mow or remove brush growing within a distance of 25 feet and grass within ten feet of wood fences in the community.
  • Store firewood a minimum distance of thirty feet from structures.
  • Install spark-arresting screens on chimneys.
  • Irrigate all trees and large shrubs in close proximity to structures to increase their fire resiliency, which is especially important during drought conditions.
  • Cheatgrass or other annual grasses that have become dominant within the defensible space zone should be mowed or treated with an application of pre-emergent herbicide prior to seed set. Treatments may need to be repeated the following year to ensure that the seed bank of unwanted grasses has been depleted. Refer to Appendix D for recommended seed mixes and planting guidelines that can be used in conjunction with removal of this annual grass.
  • Immediately remove cleared vegetation to an approved disposal site when implementing defensible space treatments. This material dries quickly and presents a fire hazard if left on site.
  • Maintainthis defensible space as needed to keep the space lean, clean, and green.

17.2.2 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 a 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.

Utility Company Recommendation

  • Remove shrubs within fifteen feet of power poles throughout the Johnson Lane community.

17.2.3 Community Coordination

Many of the most effective activities aimed at reducing the threat of wildfire for the Johnson Lane community require that individual property owners coordinate with each other and with local fire authorities. Address identification and defensible space, for example, are more effective in communities when applied uniformly throughout entire neighborhoods. Public education and awareness, neighbors helping neighbors, and proactive individuals setting examples for others to follow are just a few of the approaches that will be necessary to meet the fire safe goals in the community. Disposal of biomass generated from defensible space and fuel reduction treatments can sometimes be most efficiently handled through community programs.

Property Owner Recommendations

  • Assure addresses are visible from the road on all homes within the community. Address characters should be at least four inches tall and reflective.
  • Form a local chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council. The Nevada Fire Safe Council proposes to work on solutions that reduce the risk of loss of lives and property from wildfires in Nevada’s communities. Through establishment of a local Chapter, communities become part of a large information-sharing network that receives notifications of programs and funding opportunities for fire mitigation projects such as those listed in this report. The Nevada Fire Safe Council will accept and manage grants and contracts on the Chapter’s behalf through its non-profit status. The Nevada Fire Safe Council provides assistance and support to communities to complete fire safe plans, set priorities, educate and train community members, and promote success stories of its members. For more information on forming a chapter, contact:

    Nevada Fire Safe Council
    1187 Charles Drive
    Reno, Nevada 89509

Johnson Lane Volunteer Fire Department Recommendation

  • Distribute copies of the publication “Living With Fire” to all property owners who live in Johnson Lane. This publication is free of charge. Copies can be requested from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

17.3 Summary of Recommendations

Table 17-1. Johnson Lane Priority Recommendations to Reduce Wildfire Risks and Hazards
Involved Party Recommended Treatment Recommendation Description
Property Owners Defensible Space Remove, reduce, and replace vegetation around homes according to the defensible space guidelines in Appendix D.
Community Coordination Assure addresses are visible from the road.
Form a local chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council.
Utility Company Fuels Reduction Remove trees or trim any branches within fifteen feet of either side of power lines and poles throughout the Johnson Lane community.
Johnson Lane Volunteer Fire Department Community Coordination Distribute copies of the publication “Living With Fire” to all property owners.

Table 17-2

Johnson Lane Wildfire Hazard Rating Summary

Figure 17-1

Johnson Lane Fire History, Suppression Resources, and Critical Features

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