BLM extends comment period for Jack Wright burn |

BLM extends comment period for Jack Wright burn

by Jeff Munson

The Bureau of Land Management has extended a comment period on a proposed controlled burn in south Douglas County and will sponsor a field trip to the area Feb. 24.

Comments on a proposal to burn 300 to 400 acres in the Jack Wright Pass area of the Pine Nut Mountains will be accepted until March 16 instead of Feb. 16.

More than 100 residents, Douglas County officials and firefighters attended a meeting Friday in the Topaz Lake area to learn about the plan to burn dead brush and fire fuel in the area in spring or winter of 2002.

“It was a good, productive meeting,” said Tim Roide, a fire ecologist with the Carson City field office of the BLM.

Residents previously complained to Douglas County commissioners that the plan is not only hazardous but would be harmful to nearby streams. They say erratic wind shifts that occur in the area could put homes at risk if the fire blows out of control.

Critics say they were unimpressed with the presentation.

“They offered no new evidence that safety would be enhanced,” said Wellington resident Victor Buron.

“It didn’t sound like they are relenting from the burn plan. It didn’t sound like they are backing down from it at all,” he said.

Critics pointed to BLM fires that burned out of control last year at Los Alamos, N.M., and said there was not enough ground support to get at the fire before it reached its critical stage. Closer to home, critics also cited the Mount Como fire, a controlled burn that got out of hand in October and scorched 1,400 acres, saying the BLM was not prepared enough to stop the fire.

The BLM concluded an approaching storm front dried out vegetation, and embers from a burning slash pile sparked the blaze.

“There are some concerns out there, and we think we did a good job in addressing some of those concerns,” Roide said. “I think generally a lot of folks are not thrilled at the project proposal and want alternatives, but I also think they may be a little more at ease” with the proposal after the meeting.

Douglas County Commission Chairman Bernie Curtis, who attended the meeting along with District Attorney Scott Doyle, said he still would like to see alternatives to the burn, but thinks the BLM will use caution should one occur.

“I sure would like to see an avoidance of using fire in the area,” Curtis said. “As I’ve said before, the BLM will be under a microscope with this.”

Roide said teams would monitor the status of the fire, and the BLM would likely have fast access to fire crews and suppression teams if there appeared to be potential for it to grow.

The proposed burn plan for Jack Wright is also different from the prescribed burn at Mount Como, Roide said. In the Mount Como area, the fire area was difficult to get into, with lots of heavy brush. With the Jack Wright fire, there would be piles of slash, arranged in “mosaic” pockets.

While there are alternatives to burning, such as chipping, the BLM is concerned that moving heavy equipment into the area could damage bitterbrush deer use to forage while migrating.

The public can tour the burn area during the Feb. 24 trip field trip that begins at the Topaz Ranch Estates Community Center, 4001 Carter Way, at 10 a.m.