RCI ReportsMineral 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 area where homes and wildland meet.

This report was prepared specifically for Mineral County in conjunction with the Nevada Community Wildfire Risk/Hazard Assessment Project. The communities included in this assessment are among those named in the 2001 Federal Register List of Communities-At-Risk within the vicinity of federal lands that are most vulnerable to the threat of wildfire. Initially, seven Mineral County communities were identified in the Federal Register and were to be included in this assessment. The community of Montgomery Pass was determined to have no occupied residential or commercial property and was not included for detailed assessment. The remaining Mineral County communities included in this report and a summary of the assessment results are shown below.

Table 1-1. Mineral County Community Risk and Hazard Assessment Results
Community Ignition Risk Fire Hazard Rating
Hawthorne Low Low
Luning Low Moderate
Marietta High High
Mina Low Moderate
Schurz Moderate Moderate
Walker Lake Low Moderate

An RCI project team consisting of experts in the fields of fire behavior and suppression, natural resource ecology, and geographic information systems collaborated to complete the evaluation for each community. Data and local expertise were compiled from elected officials, local fire personnel, and other agency fire specialists with responsibilities in Mineral County including the Bureau of Land Management Carson Field Office, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Carson Ranger District, and the Nevada Division of Forestry.

Four primary factors that affect potential fire hazard were assessed to arrive at the community hazard assessment score: community design, structure survivability, availability of fire suppression resources, and physical conditions such as the vegetative fuel load and topography. The RCI Team Fire Specialists assigned an ignition risk rating of low, moderate, or high to each community The rating was based upon historical ignition patterns, interviews with local fire personnel, field visits to each community, and professional judgment based on experience with wildland fire ignitions in the Great Basin. The factors considered and reviewed during the assessment of each community are described in each community chapter.

Each community in Mineral County, with the exception of Marietta, has a fire department. Most departments are volunteer fire departments. Mineral County Fire Department in Hawthorne is a combination department with both paid and volunteer firefighters. The Hawthorne Army Depot is served by a paid contract fire service agency, Day and Zimmerman Hawthorne Corporation. Additional fire suppression resources are available to these communities through the Bureau of Land Management, the Nevada Division of Forestry, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (Schurz only).

In the communities of Hawthorne, Luning, Mina, and Walker Lake, the ignition risk in the wildland-urban interface is low, and the fire hazard ratings are low to moderate, primarily due to the low, sparse vegetation. The hazard rating in Marietta is high due to the dense vegetation within the community and the distance of the community from fire suppression resources. The ignition risk in Schurz is moderate, as is the overall fire hazard rating due to the vegetation along the Walker River corridor and irrigation channels that bisect the community, presenting fuel conditions that could potentially carry a fire into residential areas. Mineral County database records indicate that of the 29 wildland fire incidents recorded for ignition source, 21 of these were due to natural causes and 8 were human caused.

It is evident that many homeowners in Mineral County have been aggressive in establishing and maintaining appropriate defensible space around their residences. There are exceptions to this observation and many of the recommendations in this report focus on efforts that can be easily initiated by homeowners to enhance the fire safe nature of their communities.

Future development in high-density fuel areas is an area of concern where Mineral County will need to be proactive. New residents moving to the area may be unaware of the fire environment and public awareness and education will be important. As development moves into high fuel load areas, Mineral County should adopt and enforce regulations to ensure that adequate fuels reduction treatments are in place and that all new development meets the National Fire Code and Standards.

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 just some of the approaches necessary to reduce the risk of wildfire ignition and mitigate the hazards inherent in wildland interface areas.