After a wet winter, the West is burning this summer, and that includes the Silver State.
Hundreds of firefighters from many agencies fought the Virginia Complex Fire north east of Reno, a series of five lightning-cause blazes that consumed more than 60,000 acres.
A fire last weekend scorched several thousand acres, and at one time, threatened hundreds of homes between Cold Springs and Silver Knolls northwest of Reno.
Although Churchill County doesn’t have the number of wildland fires like other Nevada counties, we are still vulnerable to the fury of Mother Nature’s wrath when flames may consumes prime habitat land. Last month several hundred firefighters fought the Little Den Fire east of Middlegate. The fire first burned dry cheat grass and brush but moved up the slopes to consume pinion-juniper trees.
No structures were threatened, but the Bureau of Land Management said the fire appears to have been man caused. Almost one year ago near the same location of the Little Den Fire, the Cold Springs Fire burned 4,012 acres in inaccessible steep and heavily wooded terrain in the Desatoya Mountain Range.
In each scenario, hand crews and engines, some that carry as much as 700 gallons of water, attract the fire like the infantry.
Retrofitted jets such as DC-10s drop thousands of gallons of slurry on fires to prevent their spread, while SEATS, single engine air tankers, and helicopters drop water or slurry to stop the fire’s advance.
Fighting wildland fire is dangerous work for the men and women who work for federal or state agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service of the Nevada Division of Forestry or the many local municipalities who may be first at the front lines of a fire such as the Fallon/Churchill Volunteer Fire Department or Naval Air Station Fallon’s Federal Fire Department.
The fire threat is not over. According to the BLM, “The continuing drought in Western Nevada, emphasized by the magnitude and frequency of recent fires, has local, state and federal fire managers concerned that conditions are ideal for fire starts.”
While many Nevadans may have formed strong personal opinions regarding an agency’s programs and regulations, no one should dispute the long hours or difficult scenarios wildland firefighters face in saving property.
Pilots dropping slurry have crashed and died … including a pilot fighting a fire east of Fallon more than five years ago or hot shot crews; three years ago, we learned of the tragic deaths of 19 wildland firefighters — the Granite Mountain Hotshots from Prescott, Ariz.; and recently two firefighters from the BLM died when their engine blew a tire and overturned.
We and all Nevadans who may have faced the fire’s wrath owe a great amount of gratitude to all firefighters and support personnel who worked excessively long hours either behind the lines or at the edge of the flames with the searing heat.
LVN Editorials appear on Wednesdays.