Volume 35 | April 2017

The month of May means it’s Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month! Check out what events are in store for the month, learn how this month's theme is interpreted by our outreach coordinator, and also learn what homeowners can do to give a hand to firefighters.

May is Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month
Communities exposed to the threat of wildfire are located throughout Nevada. Examples include Spring Creek in Elko County, Lakeview in Carson City, Galena in Washoe County, Mount Charleston in Clark County and Manhattan in Nye County. Residents of these and other wildfire-prone communities need to be proactive and take steps to reduce the wildfire threat to their properties and families. May is Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month. The purpose of Wildfire Awareness Month is to increase awareness of the wildfire threat and to encourage vulnerable communities to be prepared. Originating back in 2006 as a week-long observance, it was expanded in 2014 to include the entire month of May due to increased participation. Last year’s observance included 185 events and activities, 8,655 direct participants, and 148 collaborating organizations. An interagency planning committee selected “Wildfire! Prepare. Anticipate. Evacuate.” as this year’s theme. The committee members encourage residents of Nevada’s wildfire-prone communities to:  

Prepare: Make ready their family, property and possessions now, before a wildfire starts. This includes creating defensible space around their homes, using ignition-resistant building materials, providing appropriate access to their homes for firefighters and their equipment and developing a family evacuation plan.  

Anticipate: Monitor environmental conditions and know when significant wildfire behavior is expected. When extreme, high risk conditions are present, residents should review the family evacuation plan, check the family To-Go bag, assemble a Disaster Supply Kit and prepare to evacuate family members and pets on a moment’s notice.  

Evacuate: Quickly leave their homes in an organized and orderly fashion when instructed by emergency responders. Because they have effectively prepared and anticipated the wildfire event, they are able to safely and more conveniently relocate until the wildfire threat has passed. To find an event taking place in your area or for more information about Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month, go to LivingWithFire.info/wildfire-awareness-month. There you’ll also find an order form for educational and promotional materials to help your community to take action. Please join your fellow Nevadans in May to promote wildfire awareness.

Wildfire! Prepare. Anticipate. Evacuate.
So often we think of wildfires in terms of how many acres burned, or which roads are closed. But for some, those caught in the middle, it’s more a matter of ensuring that their loved ones and pets are accounted for, what to take and what must be left behind. To help residents prepare for such emergencies, this year’s Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month theme can help...
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Homes can be Rebuilt — Firefighters can’t
Fighting fire that occurs in the wildland presents its own set of dangers as does confronting flames in a burning structure. However when you combine these two circumstances, the complexity and dangers ramp-up to pose increasingly serious safety issues. The combination of homes and natural wildland fuels is exactly the situation that firefighters face in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). The ignition of both natural and structural fuels creates fire conditions which pose a tremendous threat to both public and firefighter safety. As a result, firemen faced with the mission of first protecting lives and property, are confronted with the need to make very difficult decisions. Keeping the protection of their own life in the forefront, firefighters employ a process known as triage to determine which houses can be protected and which ones cannot. Triage places homes into one of three categories, namely 1. Not-Threatened (Ignition probability very low, limited or no resources necessary), 2.Threatened Defensible (Assigning resources will adequately lower ignition probability), and 3. Threatened Non-Defensible (Assigning resources will not adequately lower a very high ignition probability). The factors that determine which triage category is assigned to a house are:
  1. Fire intensity, rate of spread and occurrence of embers and firebrands.
  2. Availability of safety and refuge areas.
  3. Adequate road access and space to maneuver fire engines and evacuate personnel.
  4. The presence of defensible space and limited spot fire ignition sites within 30 ft. of the structure.
  5. The location of the structure relative to topographic features such as ridgetops, steep slopes, and narrow canyons.
  6. The presence of combustible ornamental plants and other ignitable debris within 5 ft. of the structure.
  7. Construction features such as open vents, unboxed eaves and other overhangs, large windows facing the advancing fire, decks, wood siding, attached wood fencing, wood shake roof and other ember traps.
  8. Overhead power lines close to the structure.
  9. Adequacy of water supply.
  10. Availability of time and resources.
Taking the action necessary to address many of these characteristics and give firefighters the chance to both aggressively and safely follow through with the protection they are sworn to provide falls squarely to the property owner and the community. Making the decision to take advantage of all the positive attributes available in the WUI also places responsibility on the residents to be an active partner in helping ensure that firefighters eventually return safely to their homes and families.

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension | Living With Fire Program | roicej@unce.unr.edu
This newsletter is provided by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, an EEO/AA institution, with funding from a State Fire Assistance grant from the Nevada Division of Forestry and USDA Forest Service. Additional support is provided by the Bureau of Land Management - Nevada State Office.