New state forester gets baptism of fire
A press release announcing that Pete Anderson had become the new state forester was sent out July 13. The next day, he would face a “baptism of fire” in his new job – the Waterfall fire.
“I woke up Wednesday morning to the same thing that everybody else did, and we’ve been going a thousand miles an hour since,” he said Thursday.
Anderson has never dealt with anything quite like the Waterfall fire.
“I’ve had a lot of experience with wildland fire, but typically we haven’t had fires of this magnitude in the (wildland-urban) interface,” he said.
But the aftermath of the fire west of Carson City isn’t his only concern. As head of the Nevada Division of Forestry, Anderson deals with a wide range of groups using many funding sources.
“We run the gamut,” he said. “From emergency response to training and education.”
Drought-weakened pines across the state are being ravaged by beetles, leaving whole canyons full of standing, bone-dry trees.
“You get a lighting strike in a situation like that, and you’re going to have a running fire almost immediately,” he said.
He also directs fuel-thinning work across the state, administering grant money from the national State and Private Forestry Program.
One of the sub-grantees to which he allots funds is the fire-prevention company Fire Safe Nevada. Its executive director is Elwood Miller – Anderson’s professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, from which Anderson graduated in 1975 with a degree in natural resources.
“I loved it – had a great time,” he said of the school. “It was small enough then that you had great relationships with your professors.”
After graduating, Anderson worked at national parks in southern Utah and Alaska, then for a consulting firm. His job was to direct the rehabilitation of disturbed sites like ski slopes.
“We were coming up with ways to stabilize the slopes so they didn’t erode – similar to what we’ve got here,” he said, motioning toward the blackened hills of Carson City.
By 1992, he was working for the state in a mine-reclamation program. In 1995, he switched to forestry.
He likes the field because he can take a program from the planning stage all the way through completion.
“You can really see the fruits of your labor,” he said.
Overseeing 10 conservation camps and their 12-person inmate crews are one of his major projects. They’re called “conservation” camps because they do everything from trimming trees to removing invasive weeds and erecting elk fencing, Anderson said.
Another of his major projects is the NDF fire program. He oversees eight fire districts in a partnership with individual counties. In those districts, his crews are responsible for all emergency response.
He’s able to line up “federal excess property,” or military surplus such as armored personnel carriers, and have state mechanics transform them into fire engines.
“They’re great. They’ll go anywhere – crawl over anything,” he said with a smile.
This type of equipment, along with NDF-trained volunteers, has worked well in places like Elko County, he said.
“All rural counties, really, without the volunteers we wouldn’t have capabilities so we try to support them with equipment and training.”
Anderson’s wife, Sheila, works in natural resources at a firm in Carson City. They live with their children off Jacks Valley Road.
Krista is a ninth-grader at Carson Valley Middle School, and Daniel is headed to UNR.
“Which is déja vu,” said Anderson. “He’s actually going to be living in the same dormitory that I did.”
Contact Karl Horeis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.