Officials outline rehab plan for Reno fire area
RENO – Rehabilitating land burned in the Andrew fire south of Reno will cost about $800,000 and it will take years for the terrain to recover, federal officials said.
Assistant Interior Secretary Rebecca Watson toured the site Thursday as officials outlined rehabilitation efforts scheduled to begin in December with aerial seeding.
“It’s a very large undertaking,” said Bob Knutson, an acting fire management officer for the Bureau of Land Management.
Sparked Aug. 25 by a target shooter, the Andrew fire burned about 2,700 acres and destroyed six homes, seven other buildings and 22 vehicles.
Selected portions of the burn area will be given special attention to avoid mudslides and similar erosion problems during the coming winter, officials said.
Seventy-six percent of the land burned is managed by the BLM. The rest is privately owned.
The fire’s behavior was extreme and burned intensely, but damage to the charred area will not impede the landscape’s recovery, said Claudia Funari, rehabilitation coordinator for the BLM.
“I think it could have been a lot worse,” Funari said. “There were only a few areas where the burn intensity was so hot it burned everything off.
“A lot of it will come back on its own. The seeding is just to ensure that.”
Key to restoration efforts will be ensuring the fire area is not overrun by cheatgrass, Watson said. Cheatgrass is non-native vegetation that can be quick to spread across a burned landscape. Once established, highly flammable cheatgrass increases fire danger for the future.
“Cheatgrass is a huge, huge issue here in Nevada,” Watson said. “It will come in and create even more fire risk. It’s such an enormous problem.”
Thursday morning, Watson and colleagues flew over the Andrew Fire area as well as the area burned west of Carson City by a larger wildfire in mid-July. The Waterfall Fire scorched 8,700 acres and destroyed 18 homes in the capital city.
Watson said she was impressed with the scope of danger posed by the number of homes in the area that abut fire-prone backcountry, a condition she said makes the need to thin or remove brush and trees near homes all the more important.
“What happened was bad, but the potential was in the hundreds of homes,” Watson said. “It came very close to doing that.”