Drought Raises Fire Danger in Truckee Meadows - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Drought Raises Fire Danger in Truckee Meadows

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Up at the corner of Arrowcreek Parkway and Thomas Creek Road, the fire crew at Station #36 is already on edge. It's just one of those rare years, when wildfires are a big winter threat too. Fire fuels are already here.

Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District Captain Jay Cwiak took us outside to show us the parched fire fuels right outside the station: "You'd expect during the wintertime, these would be very green and luscious. And if you see, right now you can snap it in half real easily. If we were to take a match and throw it in here, I would expect it to spread quickly."

Battalion Chief David French added more caution: "We're already going to go into summer with a fuel type that will be taxing us early on with our resources. As far as fire fuel, right now I'd say it's about the way it is in June."

Last year precipitation was lacking, and so far this is one of the driest winters on record. It has been over a month since Reno saw any measurable precipitation. With these dry conditions it has not taken long for the vegetation to dry out to summer levels already.

The real concern: if it's this dry now, what's it going to be like when we get into those long, hot dry months later on? Captain Jay Cwiak told us, "We expect the fires to run very quickly, get hot very fast and escalate at a rapid pace." And Chief French says the way things look, the traditional fire season will start early, probably in June: "I'd say we're looking at very high to very extreme possibilities this summer. I would expect that, just because of what we're seeing in the entire west."

And there's a hidden fire danger from not having enough snowpack. With no snow to insulate and protect the vegetation against subzero temperatures, the vegetation dies, and turns into more fire fuel later on. Cwiak told us, "If we don't have any snowpack covering over that, all these fuels are drying constantly all winter long."

All of this has led Chief French to advise something you should do now that's usually recommended in summer: "Defensible spacing around our homes. Be preventive right now. Anticipate that we'll have an early fire season."

And a fire season in winter. It's just one of those years.

-written by John Potter

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