Officials: Stay out of burn area | NevadaAppeal.com

Officials: Stay out of burn area

by F.T. Norton
Nevada Division of Forestry and US Forest Service officials observe a burned landscape near Ash Canyon on Wednesday morning.
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A mountain biker Wednesday learned first hand the mantra of experts rehabilitating the land scorched by the Waterfall fire: Stay out of the burn areas.

As vegetation specialist Gail Durham talked to reporters about just that, an man appeared on a hillside trail pedaling through the ash, apparently to take a closer look at the damage done to Ash Canyon.

Franklin Pemberton, Carson Ranger District public affairs specialist, rode up in his pickup to the man and spoke with him before the man turned and rode out.

“I just let him know that the soils are really unstable and we are trying to keep folks out,” Pemberton said afterward. “People don’t understand how incredibly delicate the soil is and walking or riding on it can make the difference between keeping the soil on the hill and keeping it out of the water supply.

“In order for the long-term rehabilitation of the mountains, we’re going to need people to stay off of them.”

Pemberton said vehicles or people can accidentally spread noxious weeds and treading upon the damage soil can cause rapid erosion or trigger rockslides.

“If you see someone in there, call the Sheriff’s Department,” he said.

In addition to the damage to the land, burn areas are dangerous places, Durham said.

“It’s also a safety issue. We don’t want people up here getting hurt. I’ve seen firefighters come out on something that looks cold and end up to their thighs in burning stump holes,” she explained.

Genny Wilson, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Wildlife Staff, is leading the 40-person Burned Area Emergency Response Team.

Their first assignment is to assess risks to human safety, lives, and property. Second, they determine how best to protect the watershed and stabilize the soils.

The team will design a plan to accomplish such goals as slowing soil erosion and reducing spread of noxious weeds by next week, Wilson said.

“We have no ground cover,” said Gail Durham, vegetation specialist, of the 8,723 acres charred by the fire. “So we are trying to create cover to get the soil conditions back to where they were to prevent movement.”

Their goal is to plant native plants and shrubs in the coming months and by next year begin planting trees, Wilson said.

Dan Dallas, acting ranger for Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, took a moment Wednesday to thank the teams assessing the land.

“What you folks do is equally, if not more important, than the fire suppression,” he said.

The BAER team will present the results of its evaluation to the public, said information officer Jason Kirchner. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.

“The purpose of this meeting is to allow the public to see exactly what kind of damage the Waterfall fire has done to the area and solicit opinions of the public regarding long-term rehabilitation,” he said.

The Waterfall fire began as a small brush fire atop a ridge above Kings Canyon Road in West Carson City and was spotted early the morning of July 14. High afternoon winds sweeping down the canyon caused a fire storm that burned for days, taking out some 15 homes and charring more than 8,000 acres.

Investigators believe a careless camper didn’t extinguish a campfire that smoldered before days before it was seen. Fires were prohibited in the area where it’s believed to have begun.

All area roads and trails within Thomas Creek and Galena were officially closed for overnight use.

“That one campfire took out the whole Carson City watershed,” said Mike Dondero, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest fire and aviation officer. “It’ll be a lifetime before it’s fully grown back. You and I are going to have to live with that for the rest of our lives.

“This closure is just one more precautionary measure to further protect the forest and its surrounding neighbors.”

The fire was fully contained by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The BAER Team’s task is focused on city, state, federal, and tribal lands. On private lands, homeowners may call JoAnne Skelly, Extension educator at 887-2252 to get rehabilitation evaluations, or call Carson City Urban Forester Molly Sinnot at 884-1883.

People who would like to volunteer labor or money for the rehabilitation can call the City Manager’s Office at 887-2121 where a list of volunteers is being compiled.

Contact F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.