Firefighters brace for another severe fire season in Nevada |

Firefighters brace for another severe fire season in Nevada

RENO (AP) – Nevada faces the prospect of another severe fire season because of dry conditions and increasing home construction in fire-prone areas, fire officials said.

Wildland fires blackened nearly 650,000 acres across Nevada last season and about 1.6 million acres in 1999. The combined acreage was more than twice the amount charred during the previous decade.

”If we get a wet spring we’ll be fine, but right now we’re preparing for an early season and another long season,” Tom Harbour, a top fire officer for the Forest Service, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The 2001 fire season is still a couple months away, but the Sierra snowpack is about 75 percent of average for the season and even lower in such places such as the Truckee River basin.

Experts said there’s little chance there will be enough late-season storms to turn the situation around.

”It’s probably impossible to catch up,” said Tim Roide, a Bureau of Land Management fire ecologist.

Increasing development next to wildland areas has boosted the risk of losing property and lives, fire officials said.

An Aug. 1 wildland fire in the hills of west Reno near the upscale Arrowhead subdivision blackened 2,900 acres and damaged several homes.

”When you introduce man into the environment that’s going to be a factor,” said Tod Carlini, chief of Douglas County’s East Fork Fire Protection District. ”And that’s happening more and more all along the Sierra front.”

After last season’s devastating wildland fires across the West, Congress authorized $1.8 million to hire more firefighters and buy more equipment, particularly for the Forest Service.

”Last summer, there were occasions where we just flat ran out of resources in the heat of battle,” said Mike Dondero, fire officer for the Forest Service’s Carson Ranger District. ”We’ll be better off now.”

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