Preparing for wildfire season |

Preparing for wildfire season

by Amy Alonzo
Jonathan Stonelake, acting fire operations specialist on the Carson Ranger District, discusses a mock blaze during a sand table exercise.
Amy Alonzo |

When a large wildfire strikes, agencies from numerous jurisdictions are suddenly thrown together to fight the blaze.

To help local California and Nevada agencies work together this fire season, more than 20 Sierra Front cooperators trained together last week at the Nevada Division of Forestry Air Operations off Heybourne Road. Participating agencies included East Fork Fire Protection District, CAL FIRE, the State of Nevada Department of Emergency Management and the Bureau of Land Management.

“The biggest thing coming from this exercise is all of these agencies [are] learning how to play with each other,” said East Fork firefighter Zac Pederson.

“This is preparation for wildland season,” added Erin Holland, public information officer for Truckee Meadow Fire. “The fire south of Topaz is a perfect example … Had it continued to blow up, all these agencies would have been there.”

An 8-acre fire June 6 destroyed an outbuilding and threatened several dozen homes at Topaz Lake.

Participants in Thursday’s training performed sand table exercises — at five different stations, mock fire scenarios were laid out in sand. The scenes were complete with miniature engines, firefighters and helicopters.

At the “Stonelake Fire,” responders discussed how to battle a 2,200-acre timber and brush blaze threatening buildings in eastern Douglas County. Plans were made for evacuations and to monitor the direction of the fire.

“We have to transition as the fire goes, and a lot of times people don’t understand that,” said Erica Hupp, a public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

The training coincided with the one-year anniversary of the 278-acre Hawken Fire near Reno. The brush fire threatened the Caughlin Ranch neighborhood in west Reno.

“When we have large incidents out in the wildland, we have agencies coming from everywhere to assist. These exercises give us a dry run,” Holland said. “These incidents blow up so fast.”

This year’s fire season is here, Holland added.

“The fuels are drying out and we have tremendous fuel load and no moisture,” she said.