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As wildfire season approaches, Nevada in worst drought in 1,200 years, report says

AP Photo/Lance Iversen, File

In this Nov. 17, 2020, file photo, wooden steps burn after wildfires destroyed several homes in Reno, Nev.

Recent analysis shows that Nevada and the rest of the American West are in the worst drought in at least 1,200 years.

The state has experienced its driest January and February on record, and that has some concerned it could mean another explosive fire season.

Right now, what's being predicted for Nevada's wildfire season is normal, says Kacey KC, a state forester with the Nevada Division of Forestry. 

"For Nevada, in the early spring, we didn't have a lot of carryover fine fuels in the way of cheatgrass and those things from last year, as you know, the drought affected that," she said. "We're kind of watching the West and the northern parts of the state to see how it's going to green up with the with the invasive species."

She said the fire progression will start in the south and move north, which is also considered normal behavior. In April and May, they expect to see fires in Southern Nevada. 

"I think we're at 22 fires to date, so far, 270 acres around the state," KC said. "Our normal is about 500,000 acres a year."

She said any normal or above normal rain in the next few months can "drastically change the fuel loads."

Popular recreation areas throughout Nevada are of high concern to them this year, she said. and it's an effort of government on all levels to place the proper and effective warnings. 

She talked about the Wildland Fire Protection Program, which the division started years ago to help local fire departments.

"Elko is a big fire risk for us. And so, we work with the Elko Fire District, they are a WFPP partner with us. So, we are responsible for their fire costs at the state, once it goes beyond that initial attack 24 hours," she said.

"One of the big successes I'd say in Nevada over the last couple years since we've had this shared stewardship agreement is an overall increase across all of our agencies, state, federal, local government, 47% treated acres each year since we've started."

She discussed the mental health of firefighters, as these fires are becoming bigger, hotter, and more volatile.

"Mentally, it's taxing on them. It's very, very challenging. You know, it's no surprise that we have one of the higher rates of alcoholism and drug use and suicide," KC said. "They're tough, but they're not as tough as they could be, because they're seeing a lot of destruction. We actually have recognized this in the industry, we finally begun to normalize the discussions around firefighter mental health, and we've collectively worked very, very hard to make sure that we can get them the help that they need."


Kacey KC, state forester, Nevada Division of Forestry

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Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.