Snowpack delays wildfire season |

Snowpack delays wildfire season

by Kurt Hildebrand

It’s a climatological good-news, bad-news joke. A report by the Western Great Basin Coordination Center Predictive Service points out there’s no drought in Nevada for the first time in a decade, however, the chance for a big fire season has increased.

The snowpack in the Sierra, along with moisture throughout the state has clearly eliminated the drought, but has also provided moisture to vegetation that will serve as fuel later in the summer.

According to the report, Nevada is coming off a three-year cycle of low burning, with 2010 logging the fewest number of acres burned since 2003, and the third lowest number since 1982. According to the 2011 Fire Season Outlook report issued April 19, 2010 saw 485 fires that consumed 23,867 acres.

The report prepared by Fred Svetz, Gina McGuire and Randy Dzialo, points out that Nevada sees heavy fire years when there’s above normal precipitation and snowpack.

“The fuel load includes a well-developed grass crop and a high number of lightning starts,” the report said.

The amount of vegetation turning green this spring is above average for most of Nevada, and is similar to 1999 when 1.5 million acres burned in the state. In 1996, which saw the Autumn Hills fire that claimed four homes and burned up to Kingsbury, 777,116 acres burned statewide.

However, the amount of moisture may delay the start of fire season for a few months. The outlook statewide is for 80,000-250,000 acres burned. There is the possibility that several days of extraordinary lightning this summer could result in an above normal number of acres burned.

It has been a number of years since a major fire has struck the Carson Range above Carson Valley. Several wildland fires have hit the Pine Nuts in recent years, but no homes have burned as a result of them.