Nevada Wildfires Cause Little Damage This Season

Wildfire the 2003 Season
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Nevada wildfires have caused little damage this year, and officials say it's because of public awareness, fast response times and the help of Mother Nature.

Just over 16,000 acres have burned across the state this year - the lowest number in at least a decade, said state Forester Steve Robinson.

"This is really a phenomenal number, considering we're in the fourth year of a drought," he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

There have been no deaths or major injuries due to Nevada wildfires this year, and the state's cost will be minimal, Robinson said.

Mark Blankensop, fire management officer for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in Southern Nevada, said 66 fires have burned a total of 70 acres this year in the Las Vegas area.

"Usually we have one or two bigger fires, but this year has been pretty quiet," he said. "But we still have extreme fire danger here."

So far, 2003 marks the second consecutive year of modest fire activity in Nevada. About 90,000 acres burned last year, Robinson said.

That's a marked change from 1999 to 2001, when about 3 million acres of Nevada rangeland burned, he said.

Robinson attributed the lower number to several factors, including increased public awareness of how to prevent fires, and the July and August monsoon season, which generated lightning strikes but enough moisture to put out resulting fires.

While there was concern the grounding of large tanker planes following two crashes last year would make firefighting more difficult, the state managed to keep one tanker in use and successfully used smaller airplanes to drop fire retardant, he added.

"The use of the aerial forces was very helpful in our initial attacks," he said. "Everyone agreed that hitting the fires hard initially seems to have worked."

Assemblyman John Marvel, R-Battle Mountain, said the lack of fires is welcome news for ranchers, who are always concerned about losing valuable grazing lands.

"It's really good news for everyone," he said. "It's good for the ecology because we don't get the erosion into our streams."

Two of the bigger fires this year occurred in Reno and west of Carson City. Both were human-caused.

The Reno fire in July burned 2,000 acres and threatened 150 homes before being put out. The 1,200-acre blaze in the foothills above Carson City temporarily closed the Spooner Summit section of U.S. Highway 50 between Carson City and Lake Tahoe, and threatened about 100 homes.