RCI ReportsEsmeralda County Fire Plan

Executive Summary

The Healthy Forests Initiative was announced by the White House in 2002 to implement 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 area where homes and wildland meet. This report addresses places in Esmeralda County, Nevada, identified in the 2001 Federal Register list of communities at risk within the vicinity of federal lands.

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

This report describes information considered during the assessment of each community (Table 1-1). Five primary factors that affect potential fire hazard were assessed 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 Esmeralda County communities was obtained through interviews with local fire chiefs and fire management officers (federal and state). The Fire Specialist on the RCI Team assigned an ignition risk rating of low, moderate, or high to each community. That rating was based on historical ignition patterns, interviews with local fire department personnel, input from 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. Community Risk and Hazard Assessment Results
Community Interface Classification Interface Fuel Hazard Ignition Risk Community Hazard Rating
Dyer/Fish Lake Valley Rural Low Low Low
Goldfield Intermix Low Low Moderate
Gold Point Intermix Low Low Moderate
Lida Intermix High High Moderate
Silver Peak Intermix Low Low Moderate

All of the communities reviewed in Esmeralda County, with the exception of Lida, have a volunteer fire department. Additional resources for wildland fire suppression are available from the Bureau of Land Management and Nevada Division of Forestry as needed. The community wildfire hazard ratings were often affected by the relative isolation of the communities and limited wildfire suppression resources and training. Volunteers may not always be available for initial attack, especially during typical workday hours, and additional outside resources are at least one hour away. All volunteer fire departments are encouraged to pursue wildfire suppression training opportunities with the Bureau of Land Management.

Infrequent wildfire and ignition patterns coincide with typically low fuel hazards throughout most of Esmeralda County. Still, there is no way to completely eliminate the threat of wildfire in the wildland-urban interface. Most residents in the communities included in this assessment have adequate defensible space conditions around their homes. However, continued and expanded efforts for residents to implement and maintain defensible space on their private property are the highest priorities for Esmeralda County. This is especially important in communities such as Goldfield Historic District with many wooden structures.

Close and continued coordination between citizens, volunteer fire departments, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Nevada Division of Forestry is critical to maintain fire safe communities in Esmeralda County. To be most effective, fire safe practices need to be implemented on a community-wide basis. Proactive efforts to effectively reduce the risk of wildfire ignitions in communities by implementing and maintaining defensible space will help to mitigate the hazards inherent in wildland interface areas. Any of the following agencies or organizations can be contacted for further information and assistance with implementation of community recommendations.

Nevada Fire Safe Council firesafe@renonevada.net
Nevada Division of Forestry Fire Program Coordinator
(775) 684-2500
Nevada Association of Counties nvnaco@nvnaco.org.
Bureau of Land Management Nevada State Office Nevada BLM State Fire Management Officer
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisors Office H-T Supervisor’s Office Fire Staff Officer