Preventing bird-caused wildfires

Private-public partnership aims at preventing wildfires by tackling an unusual cause
Truckee Meadows Fire crew clears potential wildfire fuel from base of power pole.
Truckee Meadows Fire crew clears potential wildfire fuel from base of power pole.(Wade Barnett)
Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 4:50 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The whine of a chainsaw was echoing from a hillside above a rural neighborhood at the south end of Washoe Valley this morning.

A group of men--in firefighting gear--were hard at work, doing the sort of thing we see them doing at wildfires, clearing a patch of land of potential fuel. The men, in fact, were firefighters, veterans actually, but there was no fire, And the land they were clearing was at the base of a power pole.

Equipment on the poles can fail and cause fires, but this work is also aimed at another ignition source. Birds are attracted to these lines and poles with sometimes fatal and fiery results.

“It does happen,” says August Isernhagen of the Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District.” I think in the last two years within a half mile of this location we’ve had two starts from power lines and birds. That exact scenario.”

The Truckee Meadows Fire crew would not be here doing this work, if not for a partnership with NV Energy which is footing the bill.

“It’s just going to make our communities safer,” says Mark Regan, a veteran firefighter now with NV Energy as its Fire Mitigation Specialist.

They will also be clearing land along their right of way, a potential start on a fire break should it ever be needed. This is their daily assignment, but should a fire break out they’ll be ready to leave their day jobs and join the fight.

They face a big job. There are more than 900 miles of power line in Washoe County alone, but pole by pole, mile by mile, over time Isernhagen says there’s confidence it will pay off.

“Obviously the impact of treating one pole is miniscule, but as we hit this day after day, week after week, with multiple resources, it will have a huge impact.”

Copyright 2020 KOLO. All rights reserved.

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