Carson company wins contract for fire planning study | NevadaAppeal.com
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Carson company wins contract for fire planning study

Resource Concepts of Carson City has been awarded a $1.2 million contract to develop a statewide wildfire threat assessment and mitigation plan.

The company will visit 261 communities in the state to assess their exposure to the danger of a wildfire and help develop projects and a plan of action for each one – then combine all those elements into a statewide plan.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday the federal planning grant “is crucial.”

“We have to shift from firefighting to fire prevention,” he said.

Gov. Kenny Guinn said the fires in 1999, which burned more than a million acres, “brought devastation to the watersheds, to the wildlife and dramatically affected this state.”

“Threat reduction – that’s what we’re here for today,” he said.

“Nevada has taken a very proactive step,” said Nevada Association of Counties Director Bob Hatfield. “I believe we’re the first in the nation to initiate a statewide wildfire assessment.”

But Hatfield said this isn’t the first effort in Nevada. He said local fire officials, the association, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service have been working for years to try improve wildfire protection around the state.

State Forester Steve Robinson said the Nevada Division of Forestry is continually working to mitigate fire danger by removing fuels near developed areas and encouraging homeowners to clear safe areas around their homes.

The difference, according to Tom Baker of the Forest Service, is that a statewide plan is now necessary to qualify for future federal fire protection funding.

Reid said the Healthy Forest Initiative recently passed by Congress contains millions of dollars states can apply for to mitigate wildfire dangers.

John McLain of Resource Concepts said the company has been involved in fire safety and resource evaluation since 1978 when he and Bruce Scott founded it. He said the contract will bring everything together and develop a comprehensive statewide plan.

“It’s an exciting project and one that’s just critically important to the state, the Great Basin and our future here,” he said.

He said catastrophic fires were predicted in the 1980s by the Agricultural Research Service in Reno which cited the expansion of cheat grass into the Great Basin.

Nevada got hit in 1999 when 1.7 million acres of the state burned. Now, McLain said, the brush and flammable fuels are again building up.

“We’re building up for another big one,” he said. “This year there was lots of fuel but the lightning didn’t come. Look at the development going just about every direction out into the wildland areas.”

He said one of the most vulnerable areas is the Tahoe Basin.

To do the study, he said Resource Concepts teams will visit all 261 communities in Nevada, catalog the fuels and conditions, assess the dangers each faces. He said fire safety plans will be developed to reduce those dangers.

As part of the contract, Resource Concepts will also develop a statewide map of the fuels and danger they present.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” McLain said.

All the information including recommended projects will be put together into a statewide plan and, McLain said, those projects will be prioritized.

Elwood Miller, director of the Nevada Fire Safe Council, said once the threats to Nevada’s communities are identified, then everyone from local governments to individuals will have to get involved in mitigating those threats.

McLain agreed: “That’s what it’s going to take because there isn’t enough money to go around. Communities have got to get engaged.”

He said every local government, clubs, private citizens in every community in Nevada will have to join in efforts to do those projects – clearing firebreaks, eliminating brush and undergrowth, creating defensible space around homes and commercial buildings.