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State Forester issues statement about winter wildfire danger


Dry December has led to an unusual number of wildfires


CARSON CITY, Nev. — Wildfire activity has been significant this fall with large fires in Humboldt, Eureka, Washoe and Elko counties. The fires have damaged critical rangelands, homes, livestock operations and wildlife habitat.

“Nevada and many of the western states are in one of the driest winters on record and, for Nevada, the driest December in 130 years,” said Pete Anderson, Nevada state forester and firewarden.

Fire agencies usually spend winter months training, maintaining equipment and preparing for the next wildfire season, but so far this winter, wildfires have occurred weekly throughout the state.

In 2011 Nevada experienced 814 wildfires and lost approximately 423,768 acres, just shy of the five year average of 428,084 acres burned. In November, the Caughlin Ranch fire in Reno destroyed or damaged 42 homes in an early morning wildfire driven by high winds, impacting thousands of Reno residents.

“Our first responders have been doing an excellent job suppressing these winter wildfires,” Anderson said. “We are in a weather situation in which wildfire does not respect the calendar.”

Conditions are similar to late summer or early fall, and the potential for a rapidly spreading wildfire during daylight hours is high. In several cases, fire behavior has been extreme because of the lack of precipitation, high winds, low humidity and extremely low fuel moistures.

“Fortunately days are short and nighttime temperatures are cold, which slows the spread of a wildfire, but we all must be very cautious with outdoor activities that could trigger an ignition,” he said. “The lack of snowfall has resulted in extensive flammable vegetation throughout our communities and open-space areas in both urban and rural areas of the state.

“Human caused wildfires can be prevented and I encourage all Nevadans to exercise extreme caution in areas with dry vegetation.”

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