Lyon officials OK funds in preparation for fire | NevadaAppeal.com

Lyon officials OK funds in preparation for fire

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Lyon County Manager Donna Kristaponis gave the fearsome statistics.

So far this year Nevada has had 155 fires burning 304,668 acres; last year there were 262 fires but they only burned 10,357 acres. In 2003, 192 fires burned merely 2,667 acres.

Thanks to a wet winter and spring, fire officials expect a busy and dangerous fire season. To combat that, the Lyon County Commissioners on Thursday were asked to spend $40,680 on wildfire mitigation measures that included hiring two additional firefighters for the rest of the 2005 fire season, modifying road department water tender trucks and repairing the Eagle Ridge repeater site for an additional radio frequency.

Capt. Jeff Page, of the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department, the county’s emergency management officer, said that all four fire districts in the county came together to create a plan of action for what most believe will be a fire season fraught with risk.

One part of the plan, Page said, was to put together a program to mow much of the grasses in flat areas. He added the Bureau of Land Management was prepared to loan the county a mower that can be pulled by a tractor that can swath a 15-foot path.

“We think it’s conceivable that a fire could just wipe Stagecoach out,” he said. “Areas in Stagecoach can be mowed.”

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For areas where the topography or fencing prevented use of the mower, Page said, jail hand crews or Nevada Department of Fire crews could be utilized to cut the brush.

Kay Bennett, co-manager of the Silver Springs airport volunteered the use of airport equipment, including a tractor, for the mowing program.

Page also said the fire districts planned a media blitz to make sure residents were aware of the fire danger in Lyon County and what they could do to prevent fires.

“Fires are expected to last longer, burn more acreage,” he said. “We’ve got to have individual property owners take responsibility for their own homes.”

Page added that letters are sent to homeowners with excessive brush and weeds, and if they don’t clean it up and a fire breaks out on their property, they can be held liable if that fire moves onto someone else’s property.

Dump valves on water tanks were also part of the mitigation program, Page said.

“With a dump valve, we can get water into a portable tank to fill helicopters faster,” he said.

The two additional firefighters were necessary because the volunteer fire departments aren’t getting the staffing they used to.

The new firefighters will be on a brush truck stationed in Silver Springs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., which Page said was the most likely time for a fire to break out.

“Our concern is if we get a wildfire breakout, we want to keep it as small as possible,” he said. “Silver Springs is centrally located so that if something happens they can go to Central Lyon, south to Mason Valley or north to Fernley.”

Bill Clegg, a Fernley resident, questioned why the county had to fund this, since each fire district is a distinct political entity.

“They tax their residents,” he said. “I question whether we are going somewhere with the county funding other political subdivisions.

Kristaponis said there were large portions of the county that were unincorporated into the fire districts and these areas were at great risk for wildfires.

County comptroller Josh Foli recommended the expenditure be paid with contingency funds.

“The threat is there,” Page said. “I know there’s always budget constraints. This is a quick and dirty plan to get us through the rest of the fire season.”

– Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111 ext. 351.

Quick Facts

• In 2005, Nevada has had 155 fires burning 304,668 acres

• In 2004, Nevada had 262 fires for 10,357 acres,

• In 2003 Nevada had 192 fires for 2,667 acres

• Wetter than normal winter and spring set stage for summer fire season.

• Heavy, fine fuel loadings across all of Nevada.

• High soil moistures and mountain snowpack delayed fire season in heavier timber fuels

• Areas where grass fuels are the dominant fuel type will be the areas which have above normal large fire potential.

• Fuel loading ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 pounds per acre in grass and shrub component. Normal is 200-400 pounds per acre.

Predictions

• Fires will creep under retardant lines in areas where fine fuel matting occurs.

• Any ignition in fuels will burn easily and grow rapidly.

• Large acreage can be consumed in a short period of time.