The month of May is Nevada Wildfire Awareness Month (NWAM). The purpose of NWAM is to promote awareness and action concerning the wildfire threat to Nevada communities. In 2013, over 120 wildfire awareness activities occurred throughout the state. This year our message is “Prepare Your Home for Wildfire.”
Unfortunately, many Nevadan’s believe that the proper response to the wildfire threat occurs once a fire starts and concerns firefighters and firefighting equipment. While this is certainly a crucial part of protecting communities from wildfire, it may not be the most important. Actions taken before a fire ever starts play a critical role in reducing the impacts wildfires have on our neighborhoods. As residents of Nevada’s fire-prone communities, we need to change our traditional thinking from “protecting” to “preparing” communities for wildfire.
Preparing for wildfire includes a variety of actions, including removing ornamental juniper shrubs located next to the house, planting an irrigated, well maintained flowerbed of annual and perennial flowers, moving the firewood stack to at least 30 feet away from buildings and replacing an untreated wood shake roof with a Class A fire-rated type.
There are five categories of pre-fire activities to consider when preparing your home for wildfire:
- Defensible Space: Proper management of vegetation adjacent to the home reduces the wildfire threat.
- Built Environment: Appropriate home construction and maintenance resists ignition.
- Community Protection: Well-designed fuelbreaks and identification of safe areas protect the community.
- Access: Good access helps emergency responders arrive in a timely and safe manner.
- Evacuation: Prepared communities can evacuate safely and effectively.
For more specific information about each of these categories of pre-fire activities, go to: http://www.livingwithfire.info/fire-adapted-communities.
How do you know which pre-fire activities to adopt when preparing your home and community for wildfire? A good place to begin is to contact your local fire agency or the Nevada Division of Forestry to initiate development of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). CWPP planning empowers communities working with firefighting agencies and others to identify needed pre-fire activities for protecting life, property and infrastructure. The plans can take a variety of forms, but at a minimum a CWPP must:
- be collaboratively developed,
- identify and prioritize areas and methods for hazardous wildfire fuel reduction treatments
- and recommend measures to reduce the ignitability of structures throughout the community.
The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living With Fire program has created an online CWPP template and has published a guide to creating CWPPs. These are available at: http://www.livingwithfire.info/cwpp. Once completed and approved, a CWPP can improve the community’s competitive edge in acquiring grant funds to implement their plans.
The Wildfire Awareness Month Kick-Off event will be held at Carson City’s Mills Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 3. For a complete list of NWAM activities, go to: http://www.livingwithfire.info/calendar. If you would like to receive additional information on NWAM, pre-fire activities or CWPPs, contact Sonya Sistare at 775-336-0271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.