Rehab Measures on Tap for Robb Fire Area

Wildfire the 2003 Season
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Bringing back damaged deer habitat and preventing a fresh invasion of cheat grass will be among the primary restoration goals for an area burned by a large wildfire on the edge of Reno.

Emergency rehabilitation of the fire that burned nearly 2,200 acres are expected to cost more than $200,000, Forest Service officials said.

This fall, they intend to reseed about 1,000 acres along the base of Peavine Peak on the city's northwest side.

Damage to the land was relatively light in part because the fire swept across the landscape so quickly, said Jim Bergman, a hydrologist and leader of the governments Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation Team.

"The fire didn't burn too hot. It moved so fast it didn't linger anywhere very long," Bergman told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

The fire started shortly before 6 p.m. on July 14 and threatened hundreds of northwest Reno homes before it was declared controlled July 17.

Investigators continue to pursue leads as to how the human-caused fire started but have yet to determine blame, Reno Fire Marshal Larry Farr said Friday.

Of the burned area, 525 acres experienced moderate burn severity and 1,671 acres were burned at a low severity, Bergman said. He said no significant landslides or other erosion problems are expected as a result of the blaze.

Aerial and ground reseeding will begin in the fall, when moisture can help seedlings sprout. The mix of seeded native vegetation hopefully will prevent further spread of invasive cheat grass, which is prone to take over burned areas and then present a substantially increased fire hazard in the future.

"It's a terrible cycle," Bergman said of the spread of cheat grass.

Once it grows, reseeded vegetation also will be important to a herd of mule deer that sometimes uses Peavine Peak as winter habitat.

"Any deer winter range that is lost is not good," Bergman said. "There is a lot of green left in the burned area. Hopefully that will provide enough to help them get through this winter."

Along Peavine Peak, mule deer have lost much of their historic habitat, primarily to residential development. The number of animals have dropped from more than 4,000 in 1980 to about 1,000.

"Has the mule deer herd in that area been dealt another blow? The answer is yes," said Chris Healy, spokesman for the Nevada Division of Wildlife.