Fire Officials Want Better Collaboration During Wildfires

Fire Officials Want Better Collaboration During Wildfires

01 October 2015

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USA– NV- Fire experts are discussing new ways to improve a statewide strategy to fighting wildfires. One idea is better utilizing firefighting resources, regardless of jurisdiction. Bob Roper is the Nevada State Forester. He says there are many ways to mitigate wildfires.

“What are the root causes? What are the things we can work on together, thinking it doesn’t matter who gets the credit for it,” Roper said. “Let’s deal with the wildland fire problem.”

Members of the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Nevada Division of Forestry, Nevada Fire Chiefs, and other stakeholders are meeting to find ways to approach the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy.

“It may be a cause for a change of regulations, a change of legislation, change of budget priorities, and just a change of relationships on how we address it,” Roper said.

Wildland fires can happen in Nevada, all 12 months of the year, adding more challenges and stressing the Silver State’s limited resources.

“There used to be defined seasons, and those defined seasons have kind of dissipated away now,” Larry Haydu, Clark County Assistant Fire Chief said. “So, the fire threat, while a little less in the wintertime, is still prevalent.”

Wintertime fires can be just as destructive as those in the summer. The best thing people can do to protect their homes is maintain their property. Removing pine needles from gutters, and clearing brush from around your home are examples of how to combat fires. Storing firewood away from the house and having a noncombustible roof can also help.

“The most important person in helping to protect your home from wildfire is not a firefighter. It’s you, the property owner, and it’s those things you do before that fire ever starts that are going to make the difference,” Ed Smith, Natural Resource Specialist for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension said.

Plant life that can protect your home, during the peak fire months can actually cause problems during the winter. Leaves fall from trees and can become a source of fuel if they are not cleaned up. Grass also during the cooler months, removing valuable defensible space.

“Those typically function as a fuel break,” Smith said. “In the wintertime, our lawns and our pastures are cured out and dry. They can carry fire across the landscape.”

Many agencies, around the state, perform prescribed and controlled burns. Officials are hoping to improve those, as well. The goal is for the various local, state, and federal agencies to work together to avoid having pockets of treated forest, creating a checkerboard in the woods.

“We’re treating acres that are contiguous with each other,” Roper said. “So, we have one large fuel break, one treated forest.”

Roper says working together is critical to minimizing fire threat. While many fire agencies, in our region, work together during a catastrophic fire, that collaboration is less on a statewide level. Haydu says it is important for northern Nevada and southern Nevada to have that same cooperation.

“We have a lot of resources in southern Nevada that don’t cross that midpoint, very often,” Haydu said. “I think that’s going to happen more. I think we’re going to be sending more equipment north and letting them utilize our resources.”

“Fires don’t respect jurisdictional lines,” Roper said. “So, neither should any body of government at any level.”

Roper says Nevada has been lucky over the past few years, avoiding large-scale fires. However, he says it is not a matter of if but when the next one happens. All you have to do is look at California’s wildfires.

“We’re worried because even though the fires were in California, Nevada has all the same ingredients and all we need is the start and the weather conditions to carry a fire through, too,” Roper said.

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