Washoe County Community Wildfire Protection Planning Project

In 2004 and 2005, 250 Nevada communities located in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), were assessed in terms of their wildfire risk and hazard. All the fire hazard assessments are available at LivingWithFire.info.

Specifically, the reports:

  • Assessed wildfire hazards present in each community.
  • Identified firefighting equipment and infrastructure needs.
  • Presented maps of fuel hazards in high and extreme fuel-hazard communities.
  • Described proposed risk and hazard mitigation projects in enough detail to aid communities in applying for implementation funds.

Since those reports were written, we’ve had numerous fires threaten homes in Washoe County, including the most recent Caughlin and Washoe Drive fires. The devastation from these fires  made it readily apparent that wildfires are a year-round threat in our area. Since those reports were written, homeowners have done things to either worsen or improve their preparedness for wildfire, including positive changes like implementing defensible space, replacing wood shake roofs with noncombustible types and preparing evacuation plans for their families or potentially threatening changes like building unenclosed decks attached to the home or letting their defensible space go through poor maintenance. Given these recent tragedies and the predictions by our nation’s firefighting experts that Nevada wildfire seasons will become longer and wildfires more intense and more difficult to control, it’s time for Nevada communities to reevaluate their wildfire threats.

Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP) are the mechanism for doing this. CWPPs are a vehicle for incorporating Fire Adapted Community recommendations into community design and maintenance and assisting communities in establishing priorities for protecting life, property and infrastructure from wildfire. Every step a neighborhood takes toward becoming a Fire Adapted Community increases its ability to survive a wildfire, even without firefighter assistance. The University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Living With Fire program and its partners in the federal, state and local firefighting agencies, along with the Nevada Fire Safe Council, county government and homeowners are developing materials to assist communities through the process of wildfire protection planning.

Representatives from University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, federal, state and local firefighting agencies, county government and homeowners meet to outline the CWPP planning guide.

The materials will include a planning guide that offers background information, examples, and recommendations to simplify the CWPP process and guide residents through identifying hazards, assessing their threat to the community and prioritizing action plans to mitigate those hazards. Additionally, we’re developing an electronic template into which a planning group can input data, narratives and upload photos to have a CWPP produced for them.

Any community in the WUI would benefit from wildfire protection planning not simply because it helps residents understand what wildfire threats exist and how to address them, but because the planning process allows communities to form relationships with the firefighters charged with its protection. It also increases communication among neighbors, which often leads to solutions to other shared concerns.

We understand that undertaking the CWPP process may appear daunting, but we’re here to help. We’d like to work with a few pilot communities and help bring together a planning group to test the effectiveness, usability and simplicity of these new tools. If you are interested in creating a CWPP for your community or would like more information on Fire Adapted Communities, visit LivingWithFire.info or contact Grant Nejedlo at 775-636-1233 or nejedlog@unce.unr.edu.

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