Fueling The Wildfire


The wet winter was good news and bad. The bad is is it produced a lush growth of cheat grass....now drying out and ready to catch fire.
Wildfires are a constant summer concern in the Great Basin. The most destructive can scorch thousands of acres destroying brush, trees and homes, but more often than not the ignition point was a dried wisp of grass with a dangling seed head. Cheat grass is a Eurasian exotic which found its way to North America in the late 19th century....and has been spreading over the landscape ever since. It's an annual, growing rapidly, drying quickly and has little value as forage, but it's most notable characteristic is it's flammability.
We've seen that already. The traditional fire season is still weeks away. The weather's been cool even wetter than usual, but firefighters have already busy. All of the fires so far have been man-caused. Each started in cheat grass.
Other heavier fuels...brush and trees are recovering from the drought retaining moisture. The cheat grass....especially on south facing slopes is ready to burn now.....and there's plenty of it....a veritable carpet covering whole hillsides.
Cheat Grass is tall and consistent...which that makes it a particularly good ladder fuel, capable of burning fast and spreading to brush, trees even homes.
And as with all wildfire fuels, the standard prevention is defensible space. Edgar says homeowners should clear all cheat grass within 30 feet of their homes.


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