Last November, a time of year when most Northern Nevada residents aren’t worried about wildfires, a wildland blaze broke out near Caughlin Ranch and quickly spread into the nearby residential areas.
The blaze, which eventually destroyed 32 homes, was a reminder to homeowners that much of Nevada, regardless of what time of year it is, is considered a high fire-hazard environment, capable of supporting intense and uncontrollable wildfires. More than 170 communities in Nevada are rated as having extreme, high or moderate wildfire hazard, and 13,400 homes are situated in extreme and high wildfire hazard areas.
The inherent dangers of having so many homes located in such dangerous terrain prompted University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living With Fire program six years ago to sponsor the first Nevada Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Fire Summit. The annual summit brings together members of Nevada’s high fire-hazard neighborhoods with the firefighting agencies responsible for protecting them to discuss how to lower the wildfire threat.
The summit, which will be held Oct. 1-2 this year at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, gives homeowners and firefighters a chance to compare notes, plan strategy and discuss in detail what they need to do to protect their neighborhoods from fire.
Very few homes in Nevada’s high fire-danger areas are prepared to survive wildfire — even though research indicates that prefire activities performed by the homeowner — such as creating defensible space, removing pine needles from rain gutters, replacing wood shake roofs and screening vents —can significantly improve house survivability during wildfire.
The summit has continued to grow in popularity and reach since 2007. It also has been effective in helping Nevada communities reduce the wildfire threat. Based on the 2011 post-summit evaluation results, 97 percent of the community representatives had a better understanding of the wildfire threat to their community and they intended to take action when they return home.
One community participant said, “Thanks to my participation in the 2011 WUI Summit, I now have the knowledge, tools and motivation to help myself, my family, my neighbors and my community.”
City of Reno Fire Marshal Joan Presley will serve as this year’s summit host with Fire Chief Jim Linardos presenting the keynote address. Linardos spent his career dealing with Nevada wildland-urban interface fire issues before accepting his current position as fire chief for Lake Travis Fire Rescue in Travis County, Texas.
A highlight of this year’s program will be a review of the Caughlin Fire from the eyewitness accounts of homeowners and firefighters. This discussion will be led by North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District Fire Chief and Caughlin Fire Incident Commander Mike Brown.
There are some limited travel assistance funds available to community members or volunteer fire departments that have to travel more than 50 miles one-way to attend the summit. Vendor exhibit space is still available.
The event is free, but you do need to register by going to www.livingwithfire.info.
Contact Sonya Sistare at 775-336-0271 for details.
Ed Smith is a natural resource specialist with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
Why should you attend the 2012 WUI Fire Summit?
- Discover your neighborhood’s wildfire hazard rating.
- Meet the firefighters who may be defending your home during wildfire.
- Discuss ways to reduce the wildfire threat to your community.
- Talk with fellow Nevadans about their firsthand experience with recent wildfires.
- Become familiar with resources that are available to your community that can help lower the wildfire hazard.
- Learn how to improve the fire-resistance of your home and property.
- Learn how to understand your home insurance policy and how to file a claim after a wildfire.
- Meet representatives of companies you can use to lower the wildfire threat to your community and home.
- Become familiar with Community Wildfire Protection Plans.