Tribe And BLM Teaming Up To Protect Homes From Fire

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Even though fire season is still several months away, people from the Hungry Valley area are teaming up with the Bureau of Land Management to protect their community.

To help with the effort, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton visited Hungry Valley today to discuss how the president's fiscal -ear budget will support a nationwide wildland fire project.

Since the Reno-Sparks Indian colony settled in Hungry Valley in 1988, folks have seen several fires burning very close to their homes.

That's why tribal leaders and officials from the BLM have been working on a plan over the past year, to protect the area from wild land fires.

In the past, several wildfires threatened Hungry Valley. In 1985, 1999, and the year 2000. These close calls forced the community to pull together.

"Fires in the past have burned extensive areas around here," says Mike McQueen of BLM.

Extensive areas reaching near the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. Tribal chairman Alan Melendez says the reservation is home to about 450 people from three tribes.

And, he says, it's a place they hope to protect with the wildland fire project.

"We are moving to a much more active management," says Norton. "Over time we have had a build up of dense fuels in our forests that can be catastrophic when it actually catches fire. We have to tackle that."

During her visit, Secretary Norton also discussed the project's funding.

"We just announced the President's budget for the next year. We are proposing $760 million between between the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture for taking better care of our forests and open areas. This provides all the funding that will let us implement and let us begin tackling our fire prone lands."

BLM says the main objective of the project is to clear these lands of about 56 acres of juniper trees and brush.

"These mechanical machines - they will grind the vegetation rapidly. They do several acres an hour," McQueen says.

He says once it's all done, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony will have a 150-foot wide fuel reduction zone . . . an area firefighters can use as a fire break to protect lives, homes, and property.

Project coordinators are accepting bids though the end of the month. The project should be completed by March.