That was the message being delivered by the Nevada Division of Forestry after the state entity, along with the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service, issued fire and open-flame restrictions throughout Western Nevada on Monday. As the 4th of July celebration creeps closer, NDF State Forester and Fire Warden Pete Anderson said the temptation for residents to use open flames or fireworks grows and many of them may not fully understand the dangers this summer.
“They are illegal because virtually all kinds of fireworks, including sparklers, if dropped in dry vegetation or cheatgrass are very very flammable and hardly any flame at all — even a tailpipe from a car or motorcycle — could initiate a fire,” Anderson said Wednesday morning. “The flammability of vegetation is really a concern, and even playing around in the back yard can be dangerous. Even if you think it is fine, a little a spark will set it off. Every year we have numerous fires start because of fireworks. We have already seen some in Incline Village where people with sparklers in a condo didn’t know the conditions.”
Anderson said open campfires are not allowed in the Western portion of the state and only propane stoves can be used in organized campgrounds for cooking. He said though the northeast corner of the state has yet to demand restrictions, he is sure they will be doing so soon due to a lack of moisture and dry heat conditions.
“The reason it’s critical this year is because of how small our snow pack was this winter. We are dry all over the state,” Anderson said. “Our vegetation and larger trees are as low as I have ever seen in terms of moisture. There is a very high concern this year. What you have done in years past, you are not going to be able to get away with this year. We caution everybody with any heat being produced to be very careful with equipment.”
Anderson said Nevada faces a particular challenge given that fireworks are available for purchase and launch on indian reservations located throughout the state. He said this does not decrease the danger of setting brush ablaze, but he recognized the right of the indian reservations to sell them.
“Indian reservations are separate and unique to themselves,” he said. “From the state’s point of view, they are not a part of our restrictions. We always try to advise them and let them know the conditions, but we realize it is an important economic component for them (to sell fireworks). Other than those on indian reservations, fireworks are banned anywhere else. It is very confusing for the public because you can purchase them on the side of the road, but once you leave those certain reservations they are illegal.”
Anderson said the fire restrictions are likely to hold throughout the summer heat and carry beyond Labor Day before being lifted for open burning. He said, based on years past, a “good snow or rain fall” is enough to remove the ban once daytime temperatures begin to drop.
The NDF is crews currently stationed in state parks throughout Nevada and is helping on some fires happening in central and southern Nevada. Anderson said NDF personnel will be helping organized and sanctioned firework celebrations in the western region, which he believes are the safest alternative during the 4th of July.
“We encourage everybody to attend the organized events because they are so well staffed,” Anderson said. “We have engines in Carson and Storey counties right now. We will have a presence in Lake Tahoe making sure people understand the dangers and we will increase our numbers in the state parks throughout the summer.”
For more information on the Western Nevada fire restrictions and rules for burning, visit forestry.nv.gov and click the ‘News’ tab.