MINDEN, Nev. and#8212; Itand#8217;s hard to plan for fire season when the concept has been rendered irrelevant by this yearand#8217;s dry winter.
and#8220;Having a red flag warning on a January day is unheard of,and#8221; East Fork Fire District Chief Tod Carlini said. and#8220;Thatand#8217;s the first time in my career I remember that happening.and#8221;
The Carson River basin is running at a third of average snowpack so far this winter, with Natural Resources Conservation Service telemetry indicating 31 percent of average snowpack in the mountains as of Thursday.
and#8220;Weand#8217;re going into March next week with the chance of wildland fire increasing above normal,and#8221; he said. and#8220;This is pretty early in what should be the planning parts or our wildland response.and#8221;
The National Weather Service Drought Monitor indicates that dry weather in Western Nevada will persist or intensify.
and#8220;Itand#8217;s not looking good at this moment,and#8221; Carlini said. and#8220;The Walker River folks are predicting 50 percent will be available to them for irrigation this summer.and#8221;
The dry weather is making vegetation easier to ignite because thereand#8217;s no moisture. In wet years, vegetation will absorb moisture overnight and burning will slow or stop. As dry as it is now, Carlini said vegetation isnand#8217;t absorbing as much moisture and thatand#8217;s increasing both the chance of ignition and the potential that it will keep burning.
and#8220;When thereand#8217;s no moisture and heat during the day, itand#8217;s just a recipe for disaster thatand#8217;s going to continue,and#8221; he said.
While thereand#8217;s not much anyone can do about the weather, there are things residents can do to reduce their exposure should there be a wildland fire.
and#8220;The single most important thing people can do is work on their landscaping,and#8221; Carlini said. and#8220;Weand#8217;ve been preaching defensible space for years. We do have success stories where it does make a difference. I hope people who live in the interface take that concept and embrace it.and#8221;
Carlini recommended residents visit the Nevada Living with Fire web site, www.livingwithfire.info.
and#8220;The program has demonstrated its success in many areas, including getting people to understand their responsibility,and#8221; he said.
In the Caughlin Ranch fire, several of the homes had evergreen type shrubbery around them.
and#8220;The evergreens look nice when theyand#8217;re young, but when they grow up and impinge on the home, they become a vegetative gas can,and#8221; he said. and#8220;These are an accident waiting to happen. We saw that time and time again in the Caughlin Ranch area. Homes that survived the fire storm were homes that didnand#8217;t have that type of landscaping, or where it was appropriately spaced from the home.and#8221;
Access to homes was a serious issue at both Caughlin Ranch and Washoe Valley fires, which Carlini said is critical both for firefighters getting to the fire and residents trying to escape it.
and#8220;As weand#8217;ve seen, people donand#8217;t have a lot of time when one of these wind-driven wildfires comes up,and#8221; he said. and#8220;In some areas there is limited access as fire crews are coming in and people are trying to get out.and#8221;
Carlini said that while itand#8217;s true that only the Nevada governor can order evacuations in a wildfire, itand#8217;s a good idea to be prepared to go.
and#8220;The wise thing to do is to evacuate, especially if you have older folks in the home or children, you should put your familyand#8217;s safety first,and#8221; he said. and#8220;Losing a house is bad, but houses are material objects, where your life is not. We had fatalities in both these fires. It has been a long time since weand#8217;ve had fatalities in a fire that werenand#8217;t firefighters. People need to take that into consideration.and#8221;
and#8212; The Record-Courier is the Bonanzaand#8217;s sister paper serving the Nevada communities of Minden and Gardnerville.