An extended period of drought and strong winter winds have contributed to the second major wildfire in less than 60 days in the Reno area. As reported by the Associated Press, Firefighter Nation and Wildfire Today, the so-called Washoe Drive Fire has burned up to 4,000 acres and destroyed at least 25 homes in the past 48 hours. Some 10,000 residents and numerous livestock and other animals were evacuated.
Reviewing photos at RSG.com tells a large part of the story. Firefighters are rushing to contain the fire, yet some of the biggest fuel threats they must deal with are homes already fully involved in flames. Several photos of homes and outbuildings reveal brush, grass and trees right next to walls, carrying the fire from the landscape to the structures. In one photo, firefighters stand on a home's wooden roof, preparing to protect it. In another, a firefighter stands between a home's wall and a wall of flame created by large juniper bushes, an extremely flammable species, planted around the home's perimeter.
Extreme weather conditions produce extreme fire behavior, it's clear. However, these homes did not have to burn. Using principles promoted for years by Nevada groups such as Living with Fire and the Nevada Fire Safe Council as well as NFPA's Firewise program, property owners can prepare long before a fire starts to prevent ignitions that can destroy homes.
All of us can play a role in protecting ourselves and our neighbors when a wildfire threatens. Be aware of your local weather and fire warnings. Consult Firewise.org, your local Fire Safe Council, or local fire department for more information on what to do. Learn why homes ignite and how to minimize ignitions. Find out if Ready, Set, Go! is being used in your area and what you need to do to leave safely if you must. Don't wait until fire is in your backyard to take action.
Image from RGJ Google map of evacuation shelters and routes in the Washoe City area.