RCI ReportsEsmeralda County Fire Plan

6.0 Goldfield

6.1 Risk and Hazard Assessment

Goldfield, the County Seat of Esmeralda County, is located along US Highway 95, south of Tonopah (Nye County). Goldfield is situated northwest of the Goldfield Hills and for the most part is surrounded by mine tailings. See Figure 6-1 for a map depicting the community boundary. The community hazard assessment classified Goldfield in the Moderate Hazard category (56 points). A summary of factors that contributed to the hazard rating is included in Table 6-3. The primary factors that affected the hazard rating were inadequate street and address signage, home roofing materials and architectural features, and improvements needed in defensible space.

6.1.1 Community Design

The wildland-urban interface area around Goldfield can best be characterized as intermixed. Structures are scattered throughout the wildland area and there is no clear line of demarcation between wildland fuels and residential structures within the community. All of the lots assessed were on parcels of less than one acre.

  • Roads: US Highway 95 is the major transportation route through Goldfield. US Highway 95 is paved and is at least 24 feet in width. Secondary roads in the community are typically paved and are of adequate width to allow turn-around space for fire suppression equipment.
  • Signage: Street signs were present and visible along only half of the streets observed. Residential addresses were visible on only 38 percent of the homes surveyed. Clear and visible street signs and residential addresses are important in locating homes during low visibility conditions that may occur during a wildfire.
  • Utilities: Utilities were all above ground. Power lines have been properly maintained minimizing the possibility that arcing may start fires in nearby vegetation.

6.1.2 Construction Materials

Of the 156 homes observed in the interface around Goldfield, 83 percent were built with non-combustible siding materials such as medium density fiberboard (MDF). Similarly, 83 percent of homes were constructed with non-combustible roofing material such as tile, metal, or composition. Nearly half of the homes observed have unenclosed balconies, porches, decks or other architectural features that provide areas where sparks and embers could be trapped, smolder, and ignite, rapidly spreading fire to the home.

6.1.3 Defensible Space

Forty percent of the homes surveyed in Goldfield had landscaping that meets the minimum standard for defensible space.

6.1.4 Suppression Capabilities

Wildfire Protection Resources

Goldfield is protected by an all-volunteer fire department comprised of nine volunteers and one chief. The Fish Lake Valley, Silver Peak, and Gold Point volunteer fire departments also respond to fire calls in Goldfield. Table 6-1 lists the type of wildfire resources, cooperating partners and equipment available to Goldfield for initial response to a reported wildland fire. Additional cooperating wildfire suppression agencies, equipment, and resources are listed in Table 4-2.

Table 6-1. Goldfield Wildfire Suppression Resources
Type of Equipment Amount of Equipment Cooperating Partner
(Resource Location)
Engine Type 3
Water Tender
Goldfield Volunteer Fire Department
Engine Type 1 Fish Lake Valley Volunteer Fire Department
(Fish Lake Valley)
Engine Type 3 1 Gold Point Volunteer Fire Department
(Gold Point)
Source: Mike Anderson and Denise Gano, Goldfield VFD.

Water Sources and Infrastructure

Water availability for fire suppression in Goldfield includes:

  • Community wells,
  • 500 gpm hydrants within 500 feet of structures, and
  • Water storage tanks: one 200,000 gallons; one 380,000 gallons.

Detection and Communication

Fires in Goldfield are reported through 911 calls to the Esmeralda County Sheriff’s Office in Goldfield. Fires are communicated to fire response personnel through Esmeralda County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Dispatch using radios and pagers. The Esmeralda County Sheriff’s Office and the Volunteer Fire Departments have access to the state mutual aid frequencies. The radio system is compatible with neighboring agencies.

Fire Protection Personnel Qualifications

All volunteer firefighters receive the State of Nevada entry-level Firefighter training. The Goldfield Volunteer Fire Department does not utilize the Red Card System for individual Qualifications. Red Card certification is part of a fire qualifications management system used by many state and all federal wildland fire management agencies. This certification indicates that an individual is qualified to fight wildland fires.

Work Load

The Goldfield Volunteer Fire Department responded to 25 calls in 2003. This includes emergency medical calls made in cooperation with the ambulance company in Goldfield. Information was unavailable to separate wildfire and medical calls.

Financial Support

Financial support for the Goldfield Volunteer Fire Department comes from the Esmeralda County General Fund, and through the Town of Goldfield.

Community Preparedness

Goldfield is included in the Esmeralda County Local Emergency Planning Committee disaster plan and emergency evacuation plan for hazardous material incidents. The Goldfield VFD does not review development plans. The Goldfield VFD has cooperated with Esmeralda County to develop firebreaks in and around the community, and plans to continue doing so in the future.

6.1.5 Factors Affecting Fire Behavior

Vegetative fuel loading in the Goldfield interface area is light, estimated at one to two tons per acre. Fuels in the community consist of scattered Joshua trees and a shrub layer of Bailey’s greasewood, shadscale, littleleaf horsebrush, spiny hopsage, and Mormon tea. Ground fuels consist of cheatgrass, red brome, Indian ricegrass, galleta, and squirreltail. Shrubs and ground fuels are sparse and widely spaced across predominantly flat terrain. The prevailing wind direction is from the south/southwest in the late afternoon. The overall fuel hazard was rated low for the Goldfield community.

6.1.6 Fire Behavior Worst Case Scenario

The worst-case scenario for Goldfield would begin with an ignition in late afternoon on a high hazard day during a year with above normal precipitation. Increased production of cheatgrass and other annual plants would fill the interspaces between shrubs creating the potential to carry a fire into the shrub layer under windy conditions. High winds (greater than 25 miles per hour) would push fire and send firebrands toward the community. The existing climate and historical fire records indicate that the worst-case scenario is unlikely to occur.

6.1.7 Ignition Risk Assessment

There is no extensive wildfire history in the Goldfield area, although thunderstorms with dry lightning strikes do occur. The ignition risk is lowdue to the low, sparse brush in and around the community. The primary ignition risk in Goldfield would be dry lightning strikes, although human caused ignitions can occur at any time.

6.2 Bureau of Land Management Site Assessment Recommendations

The BLM Battle Mountain assessment team reviewed the Goldfield area in March 2003. The overall potential for a catastrophic wildfire was determined to be low due to the semi-arid salt desert shrub vegetation. The BLM assessment made the recommendations for defensible space, community coordination, public education, and fuel reduction. The RCI Project Team concurs with the BLM recommendations:

  • Implement fuel reduction programs along the drainage that traverses the community, on both public and private land.
  • Establish a fire safe community fire prevention program focusing on defensible space and structure protection.
  • Evaluate the need for a pre-attack plan.
  • Work with the BLM Tonopah Field Office Renewable Resource staff to establish a schedule for monitoring annual grass production. When conditions reach a predetermined state, ensure that actions are taken to reduce fire danger to the community. In addition, conduct in-house training to educate fire personnel, allowing them to assist in the monitoring and data collection process.
  • Initiate a wildland-urban interface training program with the Goldfield VFD.

6.3 Risk and Hazard Reduction Recommendations and Responsibilities

The recommendations for Goldfield focus primarily on additional efforts that can be taken by community members and public agencies to increase wildland fire safety through the reduction of hazardous fuels that pose a threat to the community. Other recommendations pertain to community coordination and public education efforts that could be initiated to enhance fire safety in Goldfield.

6.3.1 Defensible Space Treatments

Defensible space treatments are an essential first line of defense for residential structures. The goal of the treatments is to significantly reduce or remove flammable vegetation within a prescribed distance form structures. (Refer to Appendix E for the recommended defensible space area). Defensible space reduces the fire intensity and improves firefighter and homeowner chances for successfully defending a structure against oncoming wildfire.

Property Owner Responsibilities

  • Remove, reduce, and replace vegetation around homes according to guidelines provided in Appendix E. 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 material including woodpiles, and
    • Green: Existing plants are healthy and green during the fire season.
  • Immediately remove cleared vegetation to an approved disposal site. This material dries quickly and poses a fire risk if left on site. Refer to the Defensible Space fact sheet in Appendix E for clearance guidelines.
  • Keep the area beneath unenclosed porches and decks free of accumulated vegetation or other flammable debris. Enclose these areas when possible.
  • Store woodpiles at least thirty feet from any structure.
  • Clear vegetation and combustible materials for at least ten feet around propane tanks.
  • Where cheatgrass or other annual grasses have become dominant within the defensible space zone, areas should be mowed prior to seed set or treated with an application of pre-emergent herbicide. Treatments may need to be repeated for several years to ensure that the bank of unwanted annual plant seeds has been depleted. Refer to Appendix E for a recommended seed mixture and planting guidelines that can be used in conjunction with annual grass removal.
  • Irrigate trees and shrubs in close proximity to structures. This will increase their fire resiliency especially during drought conditions.
  • Mow or remove brush growing against wood fences in the community.
  • Install spark arrestors on chimneys.
  • Maintain defensible space annually.

6.3.2 Fuels Reduction

Goldfield Volunteer Fire Department Responsibility

  • Develop and enforce brush clearing and biomass disposal programs.

Bureau of Land Management

  • Permit annual adjustments to livestock grazing permits to reduce the fuel loading from annual grasses. Balance annual stocking rates with annual grass productivity.

6.3.3 Community Coordination and Public Education

Property Owner Responsibilities

  • Assure that residential addresses are visible from the road. Address characters should be at least four inches high, reflective, and composed of non-flammable material. Improving visibility of addresses will make it easier for those unfamiliar with the area to navigate under smoky conditions in the event of a wildland fire.
  • Board up or remove abandoned trailers and other structures to prevent unwanted ignition from sparks or firebrands.
  • Form a local chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council. The Nevada Fire Safe Council facilitates solutions to reduce the loss of lives and property from wildfire in Nevada’s communities. Through the establishment of a local Chapter, local communities will become part of a large network for sharing information including notification 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 will provide assistance and support to communities to complete fire safe plans, set priorities, educate and train community members, and promote success stories of its members. To form a local Chapter or for more information contact the

    Nevada Fire Safe Council
    1187 Charles Drive
    Reno, Nevada 89509
    (775) 322-2413

Goldfield Volunteer Fire Department Responsibilities

  • Distribute copies of the publication “Living With Fire” to all property owners. This publication is available free of charge from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
  • Allow burning only under a permit process on specified days. A Sample Burn Permit is included in Appendix F.

Esmeralda County Responsibility

  • Improve street sign visibility. All new roads should be named, signed, mapped, and identified with GPS locations.

6.3.4 Equipment and Training

Goldfield Volunteer Fire Department Responsibilities

  • Upgrade personal protection equipment for wildland fire fighting. Personal protection equipment needs include hard hats, goggles, gloves, fire shelters, and personal protective equipment.
  • Acquire wildland fire fighting equipment such as Pulaskis, McLeods, and shovels.
  • Require Basic Wildland Firefighting training for all volunteer firefighters.
  • Meet annually with the BLM to discuss their pre-attack plan for the community.

Bureau of Land Management Responsibility

  • Provide wildland firefighting training to meet the minimum standards for Red Card qualifications including Wildland Safety Training and fire shelter use.
Table 6-2. Goldfield Risk and Hazard Reduction Priority Recommendations
Responsible Party Recommended Treatments Recommendation Description
Property Owners Defensible Space Remove, reduce, and replace vegetation around homes according to the defensible space guidelines provided in Appendix E. Maintain this defensible space annually.
Mow or otherwise remove vegetation growing or accumulated along fences.
Install spark arresters on chimneys.
Community Coordination
Public Education
Make sure adequate address signage is installed on all residences
Remove or board up abandoned trailers or other structures to prevent sparks entering and igniting the structure.
Form a local chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council.
Esmeralda County Community Coordination
Public Education
Coordinate with the appropriate county agency to improve street sign visibility.
Coordinate with the Assessor’s Office and County Roads Department to ensure that all roads are named, mapped, and identified with GPS locations.
Goldfield Volunteer Fire Department Defensible Space Provide courtesy inspections of defensible space.
Training and Equipment Upgrade personal protection equipment for wildland fire fighting.
Obtain wildland fire fighting equipment and hand tools.
Require Basic Wildland Firefighting training for all volunteer firefighters.
Meet annually with the BLM to discuss their pre-attack plan for the community.
Community Coordination
Public Education
Distribute copies of the publication “Living With Fire” to all property owners.
Develop and enforce brush clearance and biomass disposal programs.
Allow burning only under a permit process on set days. A Sample Burn Permit is included in Appendix F.
Bureau of Land Management Fuels Reduction Treatments Monitor annual vegetation production and permit livestock grazing prior to seed maturity to reduce annual fuel loading. Balance annual stocking rates with annual grass productivity.
Equipment and Training Provide Basic Wildland Firefighter Training to volunteers including safety and deployment of fire shelters.

Figure 6-1

Goldfield Suppression Resources

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Table 6-3

Goldfield Wildfire Hazard Rating Summary