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Pinehaven Fire: Officials say more needs to be done for fire preparedness

By Bob Conrad

Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus said on the year anniversary of the Pinehaven Fire last year that more work needs to be done to prepare Reno neighborhoods for wildfire. Five structures were destroyed and 24 more were damaged by the fire.

The cause was a high-voltage arc flash. Investigators said they believe an ionized field caused by dust or water vapor was the likely cause. 

“I think it’s a moment to pause, look [and] to understand what Reno’s learned in terms of, you know, after incidents like this,” she told This Is Reno.

An NV Energy power line in particular, she said, needs to be addressed.

“I’m going to continue to follow up with their efforts on that and make sure that that line does come through for some reinvestment for hardiness,” she said. “They’re starting that process in the Tahoe Basin and they’re going to work to make [them] more insulated and more resistant to flapping and that sort of thing.”

Neighborhoods should continue reducing fine fuels such as cheatgrass that cause landscapes to quickly burn. Goats were used earlier this year in the same area to reduce flammable vegetation.

Fire evacuation drills are also suggested to better prepare residents during a fire.

“More and more communities are starting to do these fire drills, or evacuation drills,” she said. 

Residents communicated to Brekhus a four-way stop with no controls caused problems during the Pinehaven Fire.

“Those need to work much better with a traffic control officer moving the evacuations through rather than every single person stopping,” she said. “We didn’t focus on the lessons learned from the [2011] Caughlin Fire as much as we should have.”

More than 1,300 homes were evacuated during the Pinehaven Fire. NV Energy during this past summer added parts of Washoe County to its Public Safety Outage Management Zone program to shut off power to areas when fire risk becomes extreme or elevated. 

Mayor Hillary Schieve issued a statement yesterday on the one year anniversary of the fire.

“Tragically, this was the second time that neighborhood experienced a major fire in the last 10 years,” she said. “As we look back on the devastation caused by these fires, my heart goes out to the families who lost their homes to either of these fires.”

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