Firefighters prepare for long season | NevadaAppeal.com

Firefighters prepare for long season

by Kurt Hildebrand
Nevada Appeal News Service
Shannon Litz/Nevada Appeal News ServiceEric Cook and Mike Garrett make their way up the hill behind Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School during training for seasonal firefighters last week.
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Saturday marks the 65th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, but it also will be D-Day for Douglas County’s seasonal firefighters.

While the East Fork Fire & Paramedic Districts typically hire 16 firefighters to cover wildland fire season, this year they’ve added a half-dozen more.

“The army has arrived,” Fire Capt. Terry Taylor said of the 22 firefighters living out of Gardnerville Ranchos Station 7 while completing the academy.

Deputy Fire Chief of Operation Steve Tognoli said the additional firefighters were added to make up for an expected reduction in air cover.

“We upped it because of the lack of availability of aircraft,” he said.

The Bureau of Land Management moved the support staff for large tankers from the Minden-Tahoe Airport to Stead, north of Reno.

Tognoli said the district will place extra brush trucks and tenders in service throughout the district, which includes Carson Valley and southern Douglas County.

The additional units will be spread out through the district, which the seasonal firefighters completed at the academy on Thursday. Their first official day on the job is Saturday. They will be stationed at Station 15 on Jacks Valley Road, Station 14 on County Road in Minden, Station 7 in the Gardnerville Ranchos and Station 5.

The Spring Valley fire located near Leviathan Mine Road was the first real wildland fire of the year, Tognoli said.

No homes were lost, but it may be an indication where the fire season is going.

“It will be an interesting fire season,” Tognoli said. “There were aircraft on the first fire that came in and suppressed the fire right away. It will be important to see what the aircraft availability is as the season progresses.”

Several lightning strikes set small fires over the past few days, all of which were extinguished quickly.

Because it’s early in the season and the storms have been wet, the chance of a lightning strike setting a fire has been below 30 percent.

But as the summer progresses, the chance of fire from lightning or human cause will increase as vegetation dries out.

The National Weather Service said an area of low pressure will remain stationary over western Nevada through at least today, leaving thunderstorms and lightning in the forecast, but also rain.

Lightning strikes set more than 800 wildfires in California in June 2008, prompting support from Nevada firefighters.

The snow level is expected to lower to 8,000 feet today with possible accumulation in the Sierra.