U.S. Forest Service Continues Prescribed Burns - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

U.S. Forest Service Continues Prescribed Burns

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Living in Nevada means living with wildfire. Anytime you've got a lot of thick underbrush in the forest, it makes that threat that much greater. 

The U.S. Forest Service is getting a head start on fire season, hoping to clean up areas that could be prone to wildfires.

Steve Howell is the Fuels Specialist for the US Forest Service, overseeing a prescribed fire on almost 30 acres, in Dog Valley, north of Verdi.

He says the longer a forest has gone without a fire, the more fuel there usually is to burn.

"To keep fire in the ecosystem, we try to keep fire where we've been putting fire out for years," Howell said. "If we introduce it, it can help create a healthy forest."

Along with keeping a healthy forest, Howell says it also serves as a safety measure if fire crews ever have to go back into the area.

"It's a way, maybe an assurance to us, to know that we did do some work out there," Howell said. "So, if that fire does come, we know that we can come in here with crews and try and stop it where we did do the work."

Nearly $2 billion were spent fighting wildland fires across the country in 2012, marking the costliest year on record.

Firefighters hope that will be much lower this year.

"We know our cost for putting fire on the ground, prescribed fire," Howell said. "And if we did have a wildland fire here, and it did stop it or slow it, it would minimize the cost."

This is the second straight year of below average moisture in the Sierra.

Howell says this is the earliest in the year they have started this type of burn.

But no matter how dry the weather is, he says they are ready for the peak fire months that lie ahead.

"Yeah, it's a dry fire season but we will take it one day at a time and operate normal," Howell said.

Some of the trees catch on fire during the process, but Howell says that's actually good for trees because it makes the bark more fire resistant.

Meanwhile, yesterday we got a lot of questions about why crews were burning in the windy weather. Firefighters tell us conditions can be very different in the burn areas than down here in the valley, and the forest and terrain can even shield the burn area from the wind.

They also say the wind, humidity and fuels have to be just right to allow for burning.

Written by Paul Nelson

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