Fire season is drier than average

This summer's hot, dry weather has made fighting fires like "spitting into a blow torch," said Mark Struble, Bureau of Land Management spokesman.

Extreme fire conditions have accelerated the fire season in Nevada. Now officials are saying the state is up to six weeks ahead of the statistical average for dryness.

"Right now it is as dry as the end of the drought season of 1994," said Forest Service spokeswoman Christie Kalkowski. "The relative humidity isn't falling at night so those fire conditions aren't going away."

Struble said when humidity stays in the single digit territory - which it has for the last few weeks - fighting fire can be difficult.

"From what I hear we are about a month drier than usual and we haven't had the monsoon conditions," he said. "We aren't getting the lightning, but that means that we aren't getting the rain."

The dryness of Nevada's wildlands has fire officials tense. Struble said the BLM has requisitioned a "hot shot" crew for dispatch out of Carson City. Hot shot crew members control fires by building fire lines and setting back fires.

Division of Forestry enforcement officer Steve Frady has said desert grasses are "drier than the 2-by-4s you buy at the hardware store."

In Nevada the year 2000 has already seen 520 fires, burning an estimated 233,130 acres of land. Nevada's fires have consumed almost 13 percent of the total 2,956,463 acres that have burned nationwide. Nevada is second only to Alaska, where 737,802 acres have already burned.

Nationally more acres have burned this year than last year's total of 2,464,219 acres.

In response to the conditions, the BLM, Division of Forestry and Forest Service announced July 17 that restrictions prohibiting campfires, using open flame, or using explosive material would be enforced with citations. The prohibition applies to land below 7,000 feet.

The National Interagency Fire Center attributes the flammable conditions to less-than-normal winter precipitation. Without summer rains, they said, those conditions will only be exacerbated.

Next year's firefighters will also get a little help from Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., who said he has arranged for Nevada to get another surplus Army helicopter.

"This helicopter was desperately needed by the Division of Forestry for their firefighting activities," he said.

Defense officials released the UH-1, Huey, to the General Services Administration, which transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service to give to Nevada.

He said the helicopter will be updated and retrofitted for fire fighting and should be ready to go by the 2001 fire season.

The helicopter will replace one which was wrecked more than a year ago in a crash while helping to fight a fire on Forest Service land.


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