Officials: Nevada can expect rough wildfire season

Geoff Dornan
Nevada Appeal

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — More than a dozen state, local and federal officials convened at the Capitol on Thursday to give Gov. Steve Sisolak a briefing on what they expect this wildfire season.

Sisolak pointed to the “sweeping impacts” of climate change, drought, heat and invasive grasses that are making controlling those fires a huge challenge across the West.

“As highlighted at today’s wildland fire briefing, achieving this goal at the pace and scale needed takes coordination and collaboration at all levels of government,” he said.

In 2021, there were 610 wildland fires in Nevada that burned 134,145 acres. Statistics presented Thursday show that 363 of those fires, 59.5%, were human caused.

The Tamarack Fire alone burned 69,000 acres in Nevada and California.

Officials told the governor that, consistent with the last two years, Nevada’s fire potential this year is likely above average in severity and total acres burned. They also noted the wildfire season in the Western U.S. is consistently starting earlier and continuing later each year because of climate change and prolonged drought. The combination of hotter temperatures, a reduced snowpack and earlier spring snowmelt is creating longer and more intense dry seasons that make forests and rangelands more susceptible to severe, widespread wildfires.

The experts advised Sisolak that this year will be no different with a third year of drought, further exacerbating the threat of fires throughout the summer and fall.

One piece of good news from last year is that, for the first time, more acres in the state were treated and restored to reduce fire risks than the total acreage burned — 226,367. Among other treatments was the use of more targeted grazing. In Carson City, sheep are annually released on the west side to thin the cheat and other grasses that burn so easily.

Officials say 641 treatment projects have been completed.

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