Virginia Mountains Complex: Planning & prioritizing

By  | 

SUTCLIFFE, Nev. (KOLO) Crews are making progress in the battle against the Virginia Mountain Complex. We're getting a closer look at what goes into prioritizing and planning a multi-fire attack.

Four fires broke out on the first day July 28, 2016, but there's a reason resources were sent to some more than others.

Scars are left by the fires that ravaged through the Virginia Mountains. The Tule Fire sparked first, but fire crews let it burn because it wasn't threatening any communities or structures early on.

"We're going to leave some fires to burn without resources because we need to put them on higher priorities," said Billy Britt, Incident Commander.

Britt was the incident commander on scene dishing out orders and dividing up resources.

"Just gaining that experience of dealing with fires like this, you know what the priorities are: life and property are always first."

Higher priorities went to the Rock and Seven Lakes Fires due to structures surrounding the area. The third priority went to the Sage Fire due to the sage grouse habitat.

"It shows that three is kind of that limit. Anywhere from four to three thousand acres, we were able to capture and do well at."

When four fires are involved, sacrifices will have to be made. It was too dangerous for crews to get up to the steep terrain of the Tule fire, and the Anderson Fire didn't spark until the next day, which is why they spread.

"Being miles away, you can tell what's going on on the radio. The activity on the radio, the tone of the voices of the radio of how intense and how complex the fires are becoming. You know when to divert resources to those fires."

Once boots were on the ground, crews were able to quickly put a line around the fires. Firefighters intentionally burned areas to keep the main fire from burning past the manmade barriers, like roads.

Looking at the progression of the fires, the Rock, Seven Lakes and Sage Fires were contained within the first three days. While most of the land is scarred, it won't be the last we see of a fire in this region.

"This actually will burn again before it builds enough cheat grass in there to carry a fire, but it will burn again."

All five fires were caused by dry lightning. Fire crews expect full containment by this weekend.