Las Vegas Sun

September 15, 2019

Currently: 99° — Complete forecast


Take caution to prevent wildfires this summer as spring growth dries up

This year’s unusually wet spring weather created a visual symphony of blooming flowers and flourishing plants in the Las Vegas Valley.

But now that spring has swung to summer, the rains of the past several months are having a Jekyll-and-Hyde effect. With all of that springtime bounty of vegetation turning dry in the heat and wind, it’s raised the risk of wildfires in Southern Nevada.

During a meeting last month in Carson City, land managers from across the state told Gov. Steve Sisolak that the fire threat would be elevated statewide this year due to the rare springtime weather, which left Las Vegas with an average year’s worth of precipitation by mid-May. Other contributors to the threat level include climate change, which has triggered more extreme weather events and has stretched the fire season to 12 months a year.

Sisolak came away from the meeting emphasizing the need for education, noting that humans triggered the majority of last year’s fires in Nevada. Specifically, 56% of those fires were sparked by people.

“When you see how many of these are human-caused, it gives you pause,” Sisolak said. “We need to do more to make sure more people understand that.”

Sisolak is right. So with that mind, here are some wildfire prevention tips from the Clark County Fire Department, National Geographic and the National Fire Protection Association.

Preventing accidental fires in remote areas and sites such as Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Mount Charleston and Lake Mead:

• Obey all posted fire restrictions. These can include bans on building campfires and the use of charcoal stoves, fireworks, welding equipment and other devices that can spark fires.

• Call 911 if you see an unattended or out-of-control fire.

• Don’t leave fires unattended. Douse campfires with water and stir the ashes until they’re cold.

• Don’t toss cigarette butts out of the window while driving. Properly dispose of all smoking materials, as well as charcoal briquets and similar materials that can start fires, by soaking them first.

• When using lanterns, stoves and heaters in outdoor areas, take care in lighting them. Make sure they are cool before refueling them, and store flammable liquids away from the equipment.

• Equip all-terrain vehicles and other off-road vehicles with spark arrestors.

• Use only fireworks labeled with a “safe and sane” seal, and then only from June 28 through July 4.

The wildfire risk in highly developed parts of the Las Vegas Valley is relatively low due to protection from fire departments, building codes that promote fire safety, etc. However, especially in outlying areas, homeowners can take steps to reduce their risk of wildfires. Among them:

• Keep roofs, gutters and areas around homes clear of dead leaves, pine needles and other dry organic waste.

• Store away patio furniture cushions, mats and other flammables.

• Trim back any tree branches overhanging roofs, and cut back shrubs and trees that are within close proximity to homes.

• Plan an evacuation route, prepare a checklist and create a pack of emergency supplies.

• If ordered to evacuate, do so immediately after putting on protective clothing and footwear. Remove all combustibles from outside the home — firewood, yard waste, propane tanks in grills, etc. Shut off natural gas and close all windows, vents and doors to prevent drafts.