Dust-dry conditions prompt early fire restrictions
RENO, Nev. (AP) – The driest wildland conditions in more than half a century have prompted fire officials to impose outdoor restrictions for western Nevada and the Sierra far earlier than usual.
”This is the driest it’s been since 1947 – since Harry Truman was president,” Bureau of Land Management public information officer Mark Struble said from Carson City.
”This is the second driest year since the mid-1870s. This is very early to be going with fire restrictions – six to eight weeks ahead of what the Forest Service would do. But if we don’t do it now, we’re going to have some potentially very bad fires.”
Last year’s burning ban didn’t go into effect until mid-July.
Starting Monday, 5.3 million acres – an area the size of New Jersey – will be off limits to any outdoor fires outside of developed recreational areas. Along with BLM-administered land, the restrictions apply in Nevada Division of Forestry and National Forest Service districts.
Smoking also will be banned in most areas outside buildings and vehicles. Welding, fireworks and explosives also are forbidden.
Vehicles have to stay on roads and ones that are traveling in wildland areas must carry an ax, a shovel and a gallon of water.
People who are caught ignoring the restrictions could face jail time and fines up to $10,000.
”There’s just an explosive potential out there,” Struble said. ”We’re hearing that some of our heavier fuels are as dry now as they were any time last summer, even in August.”
Conditions aren’t quite as bleak in the eastern part of the state, where precipitation is about normal, in contrast with the drought in the west.
”That’s not to say eastern Nevada won’t have fires, depending on the lightning,” BLM fuel specialist Sandy Gregory told the Ely Daily Times.
She said the Ely area is about normal for precipitation and the Caliente and Pioche region is above normal.
Wildfires last year scorched about 700,000 acres statewide, less than half the record 1.6 million acres that burned in 1999. This year’s total is 8,928 acres, 6,508 of that in last month’s Warrior Fire near Pyramid Lake.
”I worked the 2000 wildland fires, but this year seems to have a greater potential earlier in the year,” said Nevada State Forester Firewarden Steve Robinson. ”It’s essential that a commonsense approach be used while enjoying our wildland areas.
On the Net:
Nevada Bureau of Land Management Web site: http://www.nv.blm.gov
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