Arrival of spring may slow spread of wildfires for now
March 22, 2007
The arrival of spring may help stave off the recent outbreak of wildfires in Northern Nevada.
While a dry winter contributed to starting recent wildfires in western Nevada, dormant larger fuels completed the equation that meant the destruction of homes in recent Reno fires.
East Fork Fire Investigator Terry Taylor said conditions have allowed material lying between larger brush to dry out.
“The moisture in the dead weeds and brush only comes from dew and relative humidity when it is dry like this,” he said.
Taylor said cheat grass is the major kindling in the wildlands.
“The cheat grass will ignite no matter what,” he said. “After so long without precipitation, it is almost like kiln-dried wood. From the cheat grass the flames ignite tumble and other weeds which then sets the sage and piñon pine on fire. During tests I was able to get 4-5 foot flame lengths off the sage.”
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When sage and pine are taking up moisture in the spring, they require hotter temperatures to ignite.
“The larger fuels have not come to life yet,” he said. “They won’t ignite as readily in the spring.”
East Fork Fire Marshal Steve Eisele said that after little rain and almost a week of 70-degree weather, fuels are ready to burn.
“People need to be prepared and not just thinking of summer fires and things,” he said. “This is the time of year to get out, cut the brush and create defensible space.”