Clean yards to maintain defensible space

With the wet winter providing moisture to wildland plants, fire professionals expect a big fuels year. Some years the wildfire season starts as early as April. Is your home ember prepared? Will it survive when the embers arrive?

During a wildfire, thousands of embers can rain down on a roof, pelting homes like hail. They can land in and ignite flammable materials around homes. Common materials that become embers and ignition sources include pine cones, dead or dying branches, pine needles, dead grasses and plant litter inside junipers and other evergreens. By being ember aware and taking action ahead of time you can substantially reduce the ember threat.

For a minimum of 30 feet out from the house, replace junipers and native shrubs such as sagebrush, bitterbrush and rabbitbrush with low-growing deciduous shrubs or flowers under irrigation. This kind of cleanup can generate large piles of material that you have to haul away.

Good news, the Carson City Fire Department has a free Dumpster and trailer program to help you accomplish your wildfire defensible space goals.

They drop off a Dumpster or a trailer, you fill it up with plant material and they come and haul it away. If you are Carson City resident in the wildland-urban interface call 887-2210 to reserve a Dumpster or trailer. This program is funded with grants from the Bureau of Land Management and Nevada Division of Forestry.

Speaking of dead and dying plant material, I have more information about browning sequoias and evergreens.

Molly Sinnott, certified arborist, reminded me that just after New Year's, we had very cold, drying weather and below-zero temperatures. We had day after day of no precipitation and overcast skies that trapped the cold, dry air in the valleys. No matter how good someone had taken care of their susceptible plants (sequoias, atlas cedars, some Scotch, Austrian and mugo pines), unprotected ones still can desiccate, tissue can burn and freeze.

I have a neighbor who has atlas cedars. One is totally exposed and is browning, as are the cedars on College Parkway and all of the cedars and sequoias at a nursery I was at today.

Our neighbors' other cedar trees that are in a gully are fine because they are protected. Another neighbor has eight to 10 sequoias that are the rusty brown color; they did this years ago when we had below-zero temperatures and recovered.

Carson City Parks Director Roger Moellendorf also suggests that more drought-tolerant trees than sequoias should be used in our dry environment. Their water requirements alone should deter their use in our landscapes.

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


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