Be safe this summer with this Reno Tahoe wildfire safety information
By Heidi Bethel
In this special feature, we focus on giving you the Reno Tahoe wildfire safety information you need for a safe and fun summer.
Wildfires are a serious danger, often started by well-meaning passersby who don’t realize the small flicker of ash or twinkling sparkler can wreak havoc on Sierra terrain.
It can start with something as simple as chains dragging behind a truck meant to keep the travel trailer connected. That metal on pavement sparks.
Before you know it, 20 acres are consumed along the side of the road. Wildfires are a serious danger, often started by well-meaning passersby who don’t realize the small flicker of ash or twinkling sparkler can wreak havoc on Sierra terrain.
In recent years, this area has been riddled with severe wildfires consuming homes, businesses and the habitat many native species rely upon to survive.
While fires tend to be a threat in most places, the Great Basin carries an elevated level of torment due to one key factor…wind.
Adam Mayberry, communications manager and PIO for Truckee Meadows Fire & Rescue explains, “We have strong air currents and wind events that can do a lot of damage once we have fire starts. Our biggest concern is the wind. It’s the most dangerous ingredient that can spread the fire faster than we can deploy.”
Another element hindering the Reno/Tahoe area is cheatgrass. “It’s an invasive plant species that burns hot and fast. As you move toward the mountains, you see timber, pine trees and cedar which all are very heavy fuels,” Mayberry notes.
Fighting fire with fire
One way to get ahead of monumental fire events is through prescribed fire operations. Many agencies in the area comprise Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team aimed at conducting preventative burns.
In a recent press release on Reno Tahoe wildfire safety information, they describe the necessity for these small burns.
“Prescribed fires are a vital tool for restoring forest health to fire-adapted ecosystems. Fire is a natural and essential process in the Sierra Nevada that cannot be duplicated by thinning operations alone.
Prescribed fires mimic natural, low intensity fires which burn mainly on the forest floor, consuming excess vegetation (fuels), such as small trees and shrubs, allowing mature trees to remain intact.
These fires not only reduce ground fuels, they help trees increase resistance to insects and disease leading to a healthier, more resilient forest over time.”
Squelching the burn
Several agencies work together to fight wildfires including the Bureau of Land Management, Tahoe Basin and Truckee Meadows fire agencies, CAL FIRE, Nevada and California Division of Forestry, and others.
In addition to efforts on the ground, the Nevada Air National Guard deploys C-130s equipped with the U.S. Forest Service’s Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System as one of only four fire fighting fleets in the country to battle western blazes.
While the reinforcements are many, perhaps the best practice is prevention.
Mayberry notes, “Visitors and residents really need to monitor and be aware of the lands they are recreating on and find out ahead of time if they allow open flames including barbecue pits and campfires. Many of the federal lands begin to tighten up as you get deeper into the summer and fall months.”
We’ve all seen fire catastrophes from around the world, from Australia to northern California. In Tahoe, we can still see the burn scars from the Angora Fire in 2007, and driving up Emerald Bay from the fire in 2016 and the Gondola Fire in 2002, from a cigarette being thrown from a gondola.
As Mayberry concludes, “The best thing people can do is be aware of fire risk and act accordingly.”
Reno Tahoe wildfire safety information
5 Things to Know
- Know your surroundings and whether fire danger is present.
- Know the rules about open flames when recreating.
- Know how to safely light and extinguish a barbecue and campfire.
- Know to call 9-1-1 should you spot smoke and are concerned.
- Know to stay away if you see wildfires being fought in an area.
For more information or to check current wildfire conditions, visit fs.usda.gov.
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Disclaimer: Getaway Reno/Tahoe supports social distancing and safe practices promoting the health of our community. Due to the COVID-19 health crisis, digital and print content is updated to the best of our knowledge. Please keep in mind, many photos featured in our publication and online platform were taken before the pandemic and may not reflect current conditions. As you navigate your Reno/Tahoe adventure, be sure to visit the corresponding event URL or business page to check cancellations, closings, or postponements. Stay safe, stay healthy. Thank you.