by Kurt Hildebrand
khildebrand@recordcourier.com

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May 13, 2014
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Dry conditions drive fire danger

There might have been a little snow with Saturday afternoon’s showers, but it wasn’t enough to make up for a dry winter.

With long-range forecasts calling for continued dry conditions and an increase in lightning through the summer and fall, firefighters are preparing for a long hot fire season.

But firefighters aren’t the only ones who should be getting ready for drier conditions.

On Thursday, the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is hosting a “Living With Fire” regional conference at the Gardnerville Ranchos Fire Station on Mitch Drive.

The program has taught homeowners how to live safely with Nevada wildfires since 1997.

Founder Ed Smith, a University of Nevada Cooperative Extension natural resources specialist, will focus in large part on addressing the wildfire threat as a community, rather than just as an individual homeowner.

“The actions members of a community or neighborhood take together to prepare for wildfire can make a great difference in whether or not their homes will survive a wildfire,” Smith said. “It is much more effective in increasing safety of residents and survival of homes when a whole neighborhood has taken appropriate actions, rather than just a few residents.”

Fuels in the Sierra’s Carson Range have increased as small trees have died during the last three dry years, and Manzanita which came out during last month’s warm periods froze and died. Fires in dead underbrush can climb into the treetops causing crowning, according to East Fork Fire Capt. Terry Taylor.

“You go into that zone halfway up the mountain, and find all this dead and half-dead Manzanita,” Taylor said. “The fuels are there for any sort of event to become a crown fire.”

While there isn’t as much vegetation in the Pine Nuts left to burn after several record fires, some of what’s left has been infested by bark beetles who survived the relatively warm winter, leaving dead trees to provide kindling for the forest.

Not all the drying evergreens are in the mountains. Some are surrounding Carson Valley residents’ homes. Junipers and pines that have gone unwatered during the dry winter are dying back in places, creating similar hazards in Carson Valley neighborhoods.

“People did not water their landscaping adequately this winter causing a high mortality rate of landscaping pines and junipers,” Taylor said. “The top quarter of the trees, instead of having just a few brown fingers, show some trees are dead. That’s a real problem if we get a fire that delivers hot brands into a neighborhood. Then we can become the San Diego- or L.A.-type fire, which goes house to house. We need to start removing fuels from around our homes, and paying attention to our trees.”

Concerns about fire danger have prompted governors of Nevada, California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington to proclaim May 2014 as Wildfire Awareness Month.

“There are many steps individuals can take before a fire, such as creating defensible space around homes and making sure there is access for emergency responders,” Nevada State Forester Pete Anderson said. “It’s also a good idea to have an evacuation plan and to know what to do if you can’t evacuate. That knowledge could save your life.”


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The Record Courier Updated May 13, 2014 07:22PM Published May 13, 2014 07:22PM Copyright 2014 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.