Kurt Hildebrand

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November 20, 2013
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Tahoe fuel reduction projects OK'd

Fuels reduction projects on Kingsbury Grade, the north and south shores of Lake Tahoe and near Incline Village were approved for federal money raised through the sale of federal land in Southern Nevada.

More than $800,000 will go to four fire projects, including one in Haines Canyon at the top of Kingsbury Grade.

That 72-acre project is projected to cost $237,000.

“The fuels, topography and winds in Haines Canyon would support a catastrophic fire, and would defy suppression efforts,” according to a report prepared by Tahoe-Douglas firefighter John Pickett.

The canyon, formed by Daggett Creek, runs from the Carson Valley floor to the top of Kingsbury Grade. Near its top, the forest is very thick, though it thins out down the hill.

It is also full of brush and dead trees that can allow a fire to climb into the tree crowns. Combined with afternoon downslope winds, a fire could spread rapidly.

A 5-acre blaze that broke out on June 12, seemed to support that conclusion when it closed Kingsbury Grade for five hours.

Firefighters’ quick response and higher than expected humidity helped bring the fire to heel.

The project would thin trees and brush around the Kingsbury General Improvement District maintenance yard and Heavenly Ski Resorts where there’s a chance that a fire might start.

“Due to the nature of operations at these facilities, there is increased risk of an ignition which would rapidly spread to the wildland area and threaten numerous multi-family dwellings on the summit of Kingsbury Grade as well as other properties in Haines Canyon,” Pickett said.

There are three developed parcels on Kingsbury Grade, which have long winding driveways that will also be subject of the fuel mitigation work.

Firefighters hope they can reduce the thickness of trees around these homes so they can survive a major wildfire.

It has been 17 years since the last major fire on the east slope of the Carson Range above Carson Valley. In 1996, the Autumn Hills fire burned 3,400 acres and destroyed four homes. At its height, the fire threatened to climb Kingsbury.

The Department of the Interior issued a statement on Monday that more than $8.7 million was approved for projects throughout the state raised through the 14th round of the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act.

The act, passed in 1998, allows the proceeds from sales of public land in Clark County to fund a range of projects.

In past rounds, funding has been used to preserve ranch land in and around Carson Valley.

“Today’s announcement is the latest chapter in a successful collaboration that is conserving Nevada’s natural beauty and unique landscapes and ensuring public lands will continue to enhance and support statewide growth and development,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said Monday. “These funds will not only help restore and enhance these special areas for future generations, but also provide communities with greater wildfire protection, and generate jobs and vital resources for hard hit communities.”

Outside of fuels reduction projects around Lake Tahoe, most of the money will be spent in Eastern Nevada.

Other projects approved for around Lake Tahoe included:

■ $400,000 to reduce fuels and improve forest health on 160 acres of National Forest land in the northeast portion of Lake Tahoe from Incline Village west to Crystal Bay.

■ $105,933 to implement a hazardous fuels reduction treatment on 15-30 acres of nonfederal land within the Meeks Bay and North Tahoe Fire Protection districts.

■ $70,069 in the California Tahoe Conservancy for treatment of 10-20 acres of nonfederal land covered by the Lake Valley Fire Protection District and the City of South Lake Tahoe Fire Department to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire and restore fire dependent forest ecosystems.

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The Record Courier Updated Nov 20, 2013 08:43AM Published Nov 22, 2013 09:07AM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.