Fourth fire warning in a week has firefighters preparing |

Fourth fire warning in a week has firefighters preparing

Local experts are calling for a busier than normal fire season due to a wet winter and abundant fuels.
Brad Coman |

For information defensible space

The fourth red flag warning for critical fire danger in seven days is forecast for Wednesday.

On Tuesday, decreased humidity and gusty winds brought the third red flag warning as firefighters prepared for a busy summer.

“We just got off a conference call with the Weather Service and they have issued a red flag for tomorrow for the same reasons,” East Fork Deputy Chief Dave Fogerson said on Tuesday. “This will be our third and fourth red flag of the season, pretty early in the season to have so many already. East Fork Fire District does have three employees that are assisting with wildland fires in Arizona and New Mexico to manage some large wildland fires. We poll our volunteer fire departments every red flag day to see what additional staffing they can provide: we rely upon them for water tenders and brush engines to support our efforts with the 18 on-duty personnel.”

As cheat grass dries out, fire officials all over the Sierra Front are warning residents to be careful with fire in the wilderness.

Thanks to a wet spring, there is a carpet of grass across the Sierra Front waiting for a spark to set it ablaze.

Fogerson said the underbrush has been growing into people’s defensible space, which could endanger homes in a wildland fire.

“Please give us a fighting chance to save your property, we will not risk firefighter lives for property, so please help us protect our firefighters by clearing that 30 feet around your home,” he said.

Wednesday’s red flag warning is in effect from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. with humidity down to 15-20 percent and southwest winds 20-30 mph, gusting to 50 mph.

In the weeks before it completely dries out, firefighters have been preparing for wildfires that come with warmer weather.

Last week about four-dozen personnel from the Nevada National Guard, Nevada Division of Forestry, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service gathered at Alpine County Airport to practice coordinating air and ground firefighters from multiple agencies.

Four Army National Guard helicopters and the state’s firefighting helicopter participated in the exercise.

The Guard brought two CH-47 Chinook, a Black Hawk and a Lakota light helicopter to the training.

Minden Air Base Helitac Supervisor August Isernhagen told the ground firefighters to scatter into the woods around the airport, where they would communicate their positions with the helicopters, which would then drop water or supplies.

Typically, state firefighters contract with private firms for aerial support, Black Hawk pilot Maj. Andrew Wagner said.

But the National Guard is called out to help fight wildfires when other resources have reached their limit.

Wagner said the Guard participated in extinguishing the Butte Complex fires in Northern California last summer.

“We had a lot of good experience from that,” he said.

While the CH-47s can carry buckets capable of dropping up to 2,000 gallons, the Lakota is too small to be very effective in that capacity.

Wagner said it carries forward-looking infrared, and can be used to scout fires and for command and control.

Wagner said the training was an opportunity to see how the Lakota can be integrated into firefighting efforts.