Lawmakers add $3M to state wildfire budget

After hearing some eye-opening figures, lawmakers agreed Thursday to let the state’s Forestry Division move $3.29 million into the fire-suppression account.

They were told that fire has consumed more than 186,000 acres in Nevada this year, and that the total will almost certainly grow over the coming month. State Forester Pete Anderson said the two biggest fires were the Carpenter 1 fire in the Spring Mountains in Southern Nevada and the Bison fire in the Pine Nut range in western Nevada, at 27,881 acres and 24,136 acres, respectively. He added that there have been 631 fires this season, primarily lightning-caused.

Although western Nevada is bathed in smoke, he said, no fires currently are burning in Nevada.

“It’s a welcome relief from the past two or three months,” he said.

The smoke is coming from the Rim fire near of Yosemite National Park in California.

Predictions suggest there will be future increases “in the amount, intensity and the size of wildfires across the West,” Anderson added.

Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, urged the Forestry Division and local authorities in the south to do something about the lack of preparedness in the Spring Mountains and Mount Charlestons area of Southern Nevada. He said that if the Carpenter fire had started below the community instead of above, people would be killed because they couldn’t get out of the area.

“There’s no defensible space in that community, and it will burn,” he said.

Anderson told the committee his division has the resources to make it through this fire season even though it’s looking at a bigger fire year than the last. The problem financially is the skyrocketing cost of firefighting, he said.

For example, Anderson said, the large air tankers such as the DC-10s now being used are able to drop much more retardant than before, but that one drop costs about $80,000.

“We are seeing tremendous increases in costs,” he said.

The $3.29 million will be added to the $2.5 million a year the governor and lawmakers budgeted for fire suppression by the Forestry Division.


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