Fire outlook: ‘Scary’ burn potential, risk unpredictable | NevadaAppeal.com

Fire outlook: ‘Scary’ burn potential, risk unpredictable

Nick Coltrain
ncoltrain@nevadaappeal.com

With an abnormally dry winter behind us and April showers only occasionally making an appearance, Carson City Fire Chief Stacey Giomi has one word for what he expects of the upcoming fire season: Unpredictability.

“This last year was just so crazy in terms of how the weather was,” he said. “We’re just predicting it to be unpredictable.”

Bob Patton, fire management program manager for the Nevada Division of Forestry, noted that the overall accumulated precipitation in the Great Basin this winter was only about half of what it is normally – enough for him to throw up a warning flag, albeit with the caveat of it depending on rainfall over the next couple of months.

“It has the potential to be a real bad fire season in the Great Basin and even in the Tahoe area,” Patton said.

It’s an idea that Giomi echoed: “It’s kind of scary, actually, to think of the potential.”

He and Patton mentioned the continuous fire dangers here and the recent example of the Washoe Drive fire, which tore through the north end of Washoe Valley on Jan. 26.

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“I don’t think anyone would have predicted the kind of fires we had in Washoe County,” Gioni said. “Then there was the fire we had here Dec. 30 in the Pinion Hills area.”

That fire threatened numerous homes before a lucky wind shift pushed it away from an east-side Carson City development. He also noted that his department regularly provides fire safety information to property owners in the area throughout the year and not just around fire season.

Giomi said that no matter what happens this spring, the area will more than likely see its share of wildfires, especially with the region’s three traits working against it: Low humidity, relatively high heat, and strong downslope winds.

“We live in a fire environment, so whether we have a wet season or a dry season, we will have a fire season,” he said.

He said his department will be prepared for the variety of fires seen in the area, from the fast-moving brush fires more common after a wet winter to the denser forest fires that are more likely to crop up after an extended drought. But with spring still deciding how wet it will be, he wouldn’t predict which is more likely.

“I’m really hesitant to say what kind of fire season we’re going to have,” he said. “We have to be prepared for all those kinds of fires.”

Preparedness

Fire officials advise homeowners to keep their homes and property clear of flammable materials, especially near structures. Residents are also asked to be careful with fire, ashes and anything else that can cause fires. For more tips, go to http://www.livingwithfire.info.

Fire Awareness Week

Fire Awareness Week will kick off at 10 a.m. April 28 in Mills Park, 1111 E. Williams St., Carson City. The four-hour event will include lessons on how to use a fire extinguisher, and meet-and-greets with firefighters and representatives from the state fire marshal and the Nevada Division of Insurance. There will also be children’s activities and a raffle.