Most of Nevada's Wildland Fires Are Human-Caused - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Most of Nevada's Wildland Fires Are Human-Caused

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More than 30 wildland fires have started in our region, this summer.  Most of them are caused by people, resulting in hundreds of thousands of acres burned.

"The majority of these fires are human-caused, and because they are human-caused, they're preventable," Chief Dave Cochran, Reno Fire Department said. "We're not suggesting that these fires are intentionally-caused. A lot of them are just accidents, and the way to prevent accidents is education."

The Reno dispatch center received 128 calls for illegal fireworks, this Fourth of July, 19 of those were suspected of starting brush fires.  Target-shooting is another culprit, blamed for starting 14 fires in Washoe and Alpine Counties in June, including the 141-acre Garson Fire near Verdi.

"There's kind of a myth out there that I've done it all this time but never caused a fire, never seen a fire, never heard of it," Cochran said. "It does happen."

"We're in a situation where one spark, one firework, one bullet can start a fire," Councilwoman Naomi Duerr, City of Reno said. "It's just that easy."

Target-shooting is prohibited in the region's federal lands for the rest of fire season because of the high fire danger.  That is not stopping some people from doing it anyway.  Sharon Oren is the owner of Maccabee Arms.  He says many people don't know the consequences of shooting in the wildlands.

"The average shooter that hasn't served in the military doesn't know that the steel core ammo will actually ignite," Oren said. "When it hits a little rock, it can ignite a spark that will ignite the sagebrush."

Oren says he has accidentally started a fire while target-shooting, but he was prepared.

"I want to say about four years ago, I started a fire while I was shooting," Oren said. "Guess what. I had a fire extinguisher in my truck. It was done within 30 seconds."

Oren says one solution could be creating a regional shooting range in Washoe County, similar to the ones in Carson City and Clark County.

"We just don't have a designated place where everybody can just go and do it in a safe environment, that will probably unload from our firefighting community," Oren said.

While people can be fined, or even put in jail for starting a wildfire, Cochran says he would rather educate them before an incident happens.

"Fire is everybody's fight," Cochran said. "Where there's a large fire, everybody responds. It taxes all agencies in the area."

In the last 15 years, 2017 is already one of the worst, with plenty of summer left.

"We've had more fires, bigger fires, more often this early in the season than we have in quite some time," Cochran said. "That's why we want to educate the public on the things they can do to prevent fires."

Cochran says the Reno Fire Department will likely have more than 41,000 calls this year, which has never happened before. Each one of those calls requires resources, especially when they become large-scale wildland fires.

"We've got to think about the people that are on the other end," Duerr said. The people that get harmed from this, homes that are lost, pets that are lost, livestock that's lost. We've seen that over and over, already this summer. It's a tremendous tragedy. We want to do everything we can to prevent it."

People are encouraged to use extreme caution whenever they are outside, doing something that could potentially start a fire.  It is even more critical during red flag warnings.

"Don't use power tools outside. Don't drive off-road," Cochran said. "Simple things that can prevent a fire, and every fire we prevent is property saved and possibly lives saved."

"I think there is a real challenge here," Duerr said. "Whether you're dealing with young kids, teenagers, people in their 20s or 30s. At some point, people have to be responsible adults and step up and take responsibility."

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