RCI ReportsDouglas County 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 areas where homes and wildland meet. This report was prepared specifically for the communities in Douglas County, Nevada that were identified in the 2001 Federal Register list of communities at risk within the vicinity of federal lands. Douglas County communities located in the Lake Tahoe Basin were addressed in a separate report (RCI 2004). The Douglas County communities addressed in this report are listed in Table 1-1.

The Nevada Fire Safe Council contracted with Resource Concepts, Inc. (RCI) to assemble a project team of experts in the fields of fire behavior and suppression, natural resource ecology, and geographic information systems (GIS) to complete the assessment for each Douglas County community listed in the Federal Register. The RCI Project Team spent eleven days inventorying conditions in Douglas County and completing the primary data collection and verification portions of the risk/hazard assessment. Field visits were conducted in June 2004.

Five primary factors that affect potential fire hazard were evaluated to develop a community hazard assessment score: community design, construction materials, defensible space, availability and capability of fire suppression resources, and physical conditions such as the vegetative fuel load and topography. Information on fire suppression capabilities and responsibilities for Douglas County communities was obtained through interviews with local Fire Chiefs and local agency Fire Management Officers (state and federal). The Fire Specialist on the RCI Project Team assigned an ignition risk rating of low, moderate, or high to each community. That rating was based upon historical ignition patterns, interviews with local fire department personnel, interviews with state and federal agency fire personnel, field visits to each community, and the Fire Specialist’s professional judgment based on experience with wildland fire ignitions in Nevada. Table 1-1 lists the communities and identifies the risks and hazard assessment results for each community.

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 slope, aspect, and vegetation composition and structure.

Table 1-1. Community Risk and 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 and 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 High Low
Genoa Intermix Low to Extreme High High
Holbrook Junction Intermix Moderate to Extreme High High*
Jacks Valley/Indian Hills Classic and Intermix Low to High High Moderate
Job’s Peak Ranch Intermix Moderate to High High High*
Johnson Lane Classic and 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
* These ratings are reported from previously completed reports by Blackbull Wildfire Services, Resource Concepts, Inc., and SWCA Environmental Consultants.

Existing Situation

There is high to extreme potential for a catastrophic fire event in the wildland-urban interface areas of Bodie Flats, China Springs, Fish Springs, Genoa, Holbrook Junction, Job’s Peak Ranch, North Foothill Road Corridor, Pine Nut Creek, Sheridan Acres, Spring Valley/Double Springs, and Topaz Ranch Estates. These elevated hazard ratings are attributed to inadequate defensible space, combustible building materials, steep slopes, and moderate to extreme fuel hazards, often in either volatile pinyon-juniper or Jeffrey pine/sagebrush/bitterbrush fuel types. These circumstances also contribute to extremely dangerous conditions for firefighters.

Moderate potential for a catastrophic fire event in the wildland-urban interface exists for the communities of Alpine View, Dresslerville, Jacks Valley/Indian Hills, Johnson Lane, Ruhenstroth, and Topaz Lake. Either reduced fuel hazards or adequate implementation of defensible space has partially mitigated the potential for a destructive wildfire in these communities.

There is a low potential for a catastrophic fire event in the wildland-urban interface communities of East Valley Gardnerville, Gardnerville Ranchos, and Minden. A combination of irrigated agricultural lands, adequate defensible space, fire-resistant construction materials, and a career-staffed fire department within five miles of the community have mitigated the primary risks and hazards associated with wildfire in these areas.


Recommendations in this report focus primarily on efforts that homeowners can initiate and implement to enhance the fire safe nature of their communities. Recommendations for creating defensible space were uniformly given to homeowners in each community who have not yet reduced fuels on their private property. Defensible space is the homeowner’s responsibility, and it is an essential first line of defense for saving lives and property during a catastrophic wildland fire.

Douglas County must take a proactive stance on future residential development in heavy fuel, high-density vegetation areas. County ordinances should be adopted to provide the East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts the authority to require defensible space treatments on all developed and undeveloped lots within the interface areas and to bill property owners for defensible space treatment if the landowner fails to implement the necessary fuel reduction treatments. Ordinances should be passed to ensure that all new development meets the most stringent fire codes and standards with regards to road design, building materials, water supply, and emergency access. Ordinances should also require developers to construct adequate fuel reduction treatments as a condition of new subdivision approval.

Many homeowners throughout Douglas County have been aggressive in establishing and maintaining appropriate defensible space around their residences, especially in the communities with local chapters of the Nevada Fire Safe Council including Alpine View, Jacks Valley, Holbrook Junction, Job’s Peak Ranch, Pine Nut Creek, and Spring Valley/Double Springs. Projects planned and completed under the supervision of these local Fire Safe Council chapters provide an example of collaborative efforts for hazardous fuel reduction involving both homeowners and agencies. Formation of additional local Fire Safe Council chapters are recommended for the communities of Bodie Flats, Dresslerville, East Valley, Fish Springs, Gardnerville Ranchos, Johnson Lane, North Foothill Road Corridor, Ruhenstroth, Sheridan Acres, Topaz Lake, and Topaz Ranch Estates.

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 East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts, Nevada Division of Forestry Sierra Forest Fire Protection District, Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, Washoe Tribe of California and Nevada, Nevada Division of State Lands, and individual property owners.

In forested areas, 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 and 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 and water, thus improving forest health. Encouraging the reestablishment of native grasses in order to combat the invasion of cheatgrass, a highly flashy fuel, will also mitigate the fire hazard in specific areas.

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

Fuel reduction treatments in the form of fuelbreaks, shaded fuelbreaks, tree thinning, and ground fuel removal, are recommended for the following communities.

  • Alpine View
  • Bodie Flats
  • China Springs
  • Dresslerville
  • Fish Springs
  • Gardnerville Ranchos
  • Genoa
  • Holbrook Junction
  • Jacks Valley/Indian Hills
  • Job’s Peak Ranch
  • North Foothill Road Corridor
  • Pine Nut Creek
  • Ruhenstroth
  • Sheridan Acres
  • Spring Valley/Double Springs
  • Topaz Ranch Estates

To be most effective, fire safe practices 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 among the most important initiatives involved in reducing the risk of wildfire ignition and managing the hazards inherent in wildland-urban interface areas.