It didn’t take much for Nevada firefighters to take over Alpine County Airport on Wednesday for training.
About four dozen personnel from the Nevada Army National Guard, the Nevada Division of Forestry, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management gathered to conduct exercises using helicopters and ground forces.
The exercise was designed to allow Guardsmen and firefighters to coordinate should they be needed in case of a wildfire.
Maj. Andrew Wagner said the Guard’s two CH-47s, Black Hawk and a Lakota were working with firefighters on the ground to deliver water, goods and information.
Eastern Alpine County is part of the Sierra Front Wildfire Cooperators, and Nevadans often work fires on this side of the Sierra.
The exercise is timely as fields of cheat grass and other undergrowth build up and warm, windy weather arrives in Western Nevada.
East Fork Fire Investigator Terry Taylor said recent rains across the state have increased the growth of cheat grass, which contributes to the danger of wildfire when it dries out.
“It’s solid cheat grass from the town boundaries all the way out into the mountains,” he said.
He said in the morning when the humidity is high it’s still difficult to ignite brush.
“By 11 a.m. the fine, flashy fuels have shed the humidity, and the stuff is ready to burn,” he said. “We need people to start thinking about being more careful in the wilderness.”
Normally sleepy Alpine County Airport served as an advanced tanker base during last summer’s Washington Fire.
On Wednesday the four Guard and one NDF helicopter took turns working with crews on the ground, and coordinating their landings and take-offs.