In “After the Fire,” a story in the new July issue of Desert Companion, five people who directly experienced the 2013 Carpenter One fire recalled the drama and devastation. Here, we paraphrase advice from three of them — experts in forest and fire management — on how wildlands visitors and residents can do their part to avoid starting a fire. With this season’s first backyard blaze, at Pine Creek in Red Rock, having burned 91 acres before being contained two weeks ago, and with a nearly two-decades-long drought raging on, everyone should pay attention.
DONN CHRISTIANSEN, U.S. Forest Service area manager for the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
- Automobiles: Avoid parking on grass because your muffler or catalytic converter can ignite it. Don't throw cigarette butts out the window. And if you have trailers, make sure your safety chains don't drag on the road and create sparks.
- Campfires: They’re allowed in fire rings in developed campsites only; no dispersed campfires. So forget about hiking up to Mummy Springs and building a fire in a rock-ring. Picnickers should use a propane stove that turns on and off; no charcoal. And for Pete’s sake, put out your fire when you’re done with it!
- Fireworks: Are you crazy? No. Never. Of any kind.
- Recreation: Explore areas beyond the usual (Cathedral Rock and Mary Jane Falls). The Spring Mountains are a vast recreational area, and the more people disperse, the less impact there is on dry, vulnerable vegetation.
- Shooting: The Spring Mountains have had several shooting-related fires. Shooting exploding targets is always forbidden; shooting regular targets is still allowed in some areas. But there is no shooting of any kind allowed in Lovell Canyon.
“I think this is also kind of a heads up to people that you have to be prepared,” Christiansen says. “Look at Mother Nature and things that are going on right now with the volcanoes in Hawaii, and last December with fires in Southern California. You know those things are going to happen, so know what to do before it does.”
JORGE GONZALEZ, fire chief, Mount Charleston Fire Protection District
Adding to Christiansen’s advice, Gonzalez says, “During an event is the wrong time to be doing any prevention. Right now it should be all hands on deck, all the (mountain community) residents doing prevention around their property, making sure their property is defensible.” By that, he means…
- Thin trees and other vegetation around the property.
- Ensure that roof and siding are made of noncombustible material.
- Avoid stacking firewood next to the home
- Properly cover your deck and clear vegetation from underneath it.
- Make sure that fire crews can get access to your property.
- Make a list of things you’ll need during an evacuation so they can be quickly gathered: clothes, documents, medications, valuables.
- Visit LivingWithFire.com, a state of Nevada program, where homeowners can get detailed information on prevention, evacuation, and cleanup.
- Call the Mount Charleston Fire Protection District to schedule a property assessment. A firefighter will do a walk-through and suggest precautionary fixes — for free!
“More people need to take advantage of the assessment program,” Gonzalez says. “We don't tell you what to do on your property. We just suggest. Whatever you do on your own property, that's your right, of course, but it takes a community effort to defend against the major wildfires.”
CARRIE THALER, U.S. Forest Service district fire management officer for the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
“We do our best to work with the other agencies and cooperators in southern Nevada,” Thaler says. “So in the Kyle Canyon area, for example, we work closely with Chief Gonzales and the Mount Charleston Fire Protection District to educate people on what we’re doing … and what they need to do, how they can help us.”
- Fuel breaks: Just as the Forest Service and Fire Protection District create low-vegetation bands around vulnerable areas and structures, homeowners should try to create a perimeter around their property where there is little to no combustible material.
- Major repairs: There is grant money available for big projects, such as replacing roofing material. Contact the Forest Service for more information.