Defensible space key to protecting homes |

Defensible space key to protecting homes

by Kurt Hildebrand
The hillside above Jacks Valley Road was blackened by a wildfire on Monday. Homes visible in the background were among those threatened in the fire.
Kurt Hildebrand

With the chance of thunderstorms increasing in the forecast it won’t be enough to be careful of fire.

Forecasters are predicted the chance of dry lightning through this weekend for storms that could set anywhere alight at any time.

On Sunday what started out as a small wildfire claimed a Topaz Lake in Douglas County resident’s home.

While the cause of that fire has yet to be determined, it was first reported as a power pole on fire, which knocked out power to neighborhood wells.

On Monday, all it took was a spark from an excavator’s track to light cheat grass ablaze in Jacks Valley outside of Carson City. Quickly shifting winds pushed the fire down toward Jacks Valley Road north toward Alpine View and back toward the homes along James Canyon Loop.

Fire Marshal Steve Eisele said a combination of defensible space and riparian areas to the north and east of the fire helped give firefighters the chance they needed to get ahead of the blaze.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to have defensible space around homes,” Eisele said. “This contributed to the successful outcome of no structures lost.”

When firefighters arrived at the scene of the Jacks Valley fire, they immediately set up near homes to do structure protection.

Unlike Topaz, Canyon Creek Estates had hydrants, but Eisele said the swift moving fire prevented engines from connecting to them. Instead, firefighters filled tenders and used them to supply the engines so they could remain mobile and head off the fire when the wind shifted.

While landscaping was burned as a result of the fire, it did its job protecting homes.

According to livingwithfire’s Ed Smith, defensible space is the area between a house and the wildland that has been modified to give firefighters a place to make a stand when defending a house in a wildfire.

According to Smith creating defensible space involves thinning flammable native trees and shrubs, including buck and rabbit brush and desert peach, and planting fire resistant plants around the house.

“Having an effective defensible space is essential to living more safely in high-fire hazard environments,” Smith wrote.