Officials urge care with off-road vehicles, fires over Fourth

It's going to be an extremely dangerous Fourth of July holiday for wildland fires in Northern Nevada, officials warn.

People who plan to drive off-road or to camp will have to take special precautions.

"Precipitation is almost normal, but the range hasn't recovered from the last two drought years, resulting in extreme fire conditions," said Leonard Wehking, fire management officer for the Bureau of Land Management. "As a result, this year's Western fires are much more erratic. The flame lengths, ignition component, energy dispersed and spread rates are all higher."

"Firefighters can't fight 400-foot flame lengths with an axe. They have to step way back with something like that," said Elayn Briggs, associate field manager for the bureau. "We've been lucky in Northern Nevada so far, but these are dangerous conditions. We have enough problems with Mother Nature and lightning."

Huge fires in Arizona, Colorado and the Cannon Fire near Walker Lake have tapped resources locally and nationally, further complicating the picture, according to Briggs. She urged everyone to be especially careful.

Storey County Fire Chief Gary Hames agreed.

"The Haynes Index, a formula used to determine what a fire will do, is at five," he said. "Normally, it isn't that high until July or August."

Those celebrating the Fourth on state lands are required to operate vehicles on the road unless drivers are equipped with an axe, shovel and gallon of water.

"If your vehicle starts a fire, you are responsible," Briggs said. "No fires are allowed outside of designated campgrounds."

Marksmen are not allowed to use incendiary or tracer rounds and no fireworks are allowed on Bureau of Land Managment, Forest Service or state land, according to Briggs. If a fire does start, people are urged to call 911 immediately.

"We require appropriate spark arrestors for vehicles," Wehking said. "We want everyone to have a safe Fourth of July weekend and enjoy our public lands, but please be careful. We need you to help us protect them."


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