Nevada sees few fires despite high potential for season
Saved by drenching downpours at the right times, western Nevada has so far escaped the devastating fires that many surrounding states are battling.
But as thunderstorm season passes, Carson City and Reno area fire managers remain cautious. Manmade fire hazards plus an abundance of dry brush and grass keep the area fire danger high.
“We’re sitting on the edge of our seats,” said Leonard Wehking, fire- management officer for the Bureau of Land Management Carson City Field Office. “Human-caused fires are the ones that are going to get us. We have a month left of potentially big fires.”
Reno Fire Department Battalion Chief Rik Kajans said the department got a reminder Monday of how quickly brush is drying out after the half-inch of rain it received during the last storm.
A five-acre blaze that threatened at least 20 homes at Stead Boulevard and North Virginia started about 11 a.m. Monday by a person grinding metal, Kajans said. The fire spread quickly, but was contained after 12 firefighting units arrived from the Reno Fire Department, Nevada Department of Forestry, the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service.
“It’s a good example of how quickly things can dry out,” Kajans said.
The Western Great Basin district that includes western Nevada has recorded 554 fires this year, but they burned the fewest number of acres in the nation at 15,265 acres.
Other areas, such as Alaska with 512,356 burned acres and the northern Rockies with 2,395 fires and 254,937 acres, are borrowing firefighters and equipment from Nevada.
Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Arizona have had active fire seasons this year. In Montana, officials at Glacier National Park evacuated a portion of the park’s west side and closed the western portion of the popular Going-to-the-Sun Road Monday. About 70 miles west of Billings, another fire that started from a lightning strike Friday has grown to more than 30,000 acres and forced the evacuation of about 50 homes.
The two largest fires in the area this season were the Robb Drive fire, which burned 2,200 acres in Reno, and a fire that burned 900 acres along Highway 50, west of Carson City.
Numerous fires were started by lightning strikes, but put out quickly with the help of rain. Six fires started in one minute on C Hill in Carson City on July 23.
“Thank God for the rain on that day,” said Ronan Thornhill, fire-management officer for the Nevada Department of Forestry.
National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Deutschendorf said with fire danger usually peaking in August, the area is again experiencing warmer temperatures, winds and dryer weather.
Thunderstorm activity is not expected, but winds in the next few days and increasing higher temperatures will continue into the weekend, Deutschendorf said.
Overall, the area has recorded record average high temperatures during the past two months. Reno set monthly records this summer, but also has received more rain than normal. August usually records .27 inches of rain. The area got .5 inches in the first two days, even though “we can’t really call it a wet month,” Deutschendorf said.
“We’re back into a summer pattern,” he said.