Drought Brings Wildfire Warnings to Northern Nevada - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Drought Brings Wildfire Warnings to Northern Nevada

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Seasons are deceiving. Fire fuels stop growing in winter, but they don't just disappear. Walking through a backyard thick with dead, dried up vegetation, Natural Resource Specialist Ed Smith cast a worried look. His description of this Hidden Valley home? "A tinderbox. This is not acceptable. This is a hazard even though its wintertime, all of these dead leaves on the ground..."

Lately, we're all getting used to a growing winter fire season. The wildfire threat has recently turned into a year-round issue in northern Nevada…the Washoe Drive and Caughlin Fires may have proved that. But this time, the drought has made the threat of fire much worse.

Walking through the yard, Ed, who devotes much of his UNR Cooperative Extension job to reducing fire threats, pointed out the many things that could quickly erupt in flames…even the living plants. He said with the current drought, "The lower the moisture content in the plant tissue, the greater the fire hazard it's going to be."

And the way things look now, there are many, many yards and homes in danger…especially those with juniper plants. Ed calls them "torches…little green gas cans," packed with fire fuel and explosive oils. In this drought, he says they're even more dangerous: "When they're dead, that makes them even more hazardous...easier to ignite and they burn much faster."

Ed says getting rid of them, especially if they're close to your home, is critical and not something to wait on. And winter fires are different…they use different fuels, so he also says you need to rake your leaves, even in January: "The leaves become very vulnerable to ignition from embers, and the major thing that contributed to home loss in the Washoe Drive and Caughlin Fires were wind-blown embers produced by the fire landing on something easily ignited like these dead leaves."

Leaves like you'll find on the majority of lawns today. It's times like these that call for new warnings. The appeal to create defensible space has been moved up a few months, to right now…measure that 30 feet again between flammable growth and your home.

Yes, we are getting a more rainy forecast this week, but the drought hole that's been dug is mighty deep, and it will take a lot more than a trickle of rain to fill it. As Ed told us, "I have not heard us classified as an exceptional drought period before, so I think it's a significant one."

-written by John Potter

Taking action now can better prepare you for the next wildfire event. There's much more on how you can protect your home at the "Living With Fire" website. Just click this link:


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