SPARKS — A fire at a home on La Hacienda Drive Wednesday afternoon is one example of how quickly a spark from an electrical soldering tool can flame up building material, nearly bursting a two-story home into a mass of flames.
The recent dry winter has left in its wake crackly weeds, a booming harvest of cheat grass and an abundance of fire fuels throughout the Truckee Meadows. Simply parking atop a patch of brown, dead foliage could bring about a wildfire like Washoe County hasn’t seen in decades.
Everyone is now being asked by Washoe County officials to help in the effort to “do their part to protect lives and property during this particularly dangerous fire season,” said Nancy Leuenhagen, spokeswoman for Washoe County. “The Washoe County Department of Building and Safety is issuing a fire season warning this week to homeowners and licensed contractors reminding them to take precautions while on a project or on the job.”
This includes getting tools to quickly extinguish a fire that may start while doing yard work, mowing or weeding the yard — to reporting hazardous conditions from larger construction projects to the Washoe County Department of Building and Safety (775-328-2020).
Luckily, Wednesday’s fire caused no injuries. Professional electrical contractor, Cecil Arnold, of All Source Energy Corp. of Sparks has already taken precautions.
“All of our trucks are outfitted with fire extinguishers and the crew is trained on them, and they have them nearby,” Arnold said.
Whenever the crew is working outside they clear away dried brush.
“We don’t really deal with that kind of stuff,” Arnold said. “We have a high standard of safety already.”
Arnold said he has already noticed at his job sites in the northern Nevada region that most all areas are extremely dry.
“We’re paying attention to what we’re doing. We’re not going to do anything inadvertently to cause sparks to hit the ground or anything like that,” he said.
Many residents and contractors are surprised to learn that even small sparks from vehicles and equipment can start a large wildfire in these conditions. Don Jeppson, Building Official for the Department of Building and Safety said regardless of the project size, don’t take any chances with these extremely dry conditions.
“For large or small projects, no matter where you are located, at a minimum, you should have at hand a shovel, water, and a fully charged fire extinguisher,” Jeppson said in the fire safety reminder. “All outdoor activities including yard work, mowing, weed abatement, and camping should have these fire prevention tools nearby.”
“It’s important to remember that contractors or homeowners could be held financially accountable for starting fires even by accident,” Jeppson said. “Extra caution should be taken on days when the National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning, which is a fire condition notice meaning there exists the highest risk and most dangerous conditions for fire.”
Red Flag Warnings can be checked at www.nws.noaa.gov.
“If you see fire hazards in the construction field, bring them to the attention of the contractor or homeowner and contact your local fire or building department,” Jeppson said. “An example of a fire hazard in a construction zone is as simple as equipment parked on weeds or welding near dry vegetation. Also, remember to report to authorities any suspicious activities, vehicles and/or people that may be involved in starting a fire or dumping trash in open space around urban areas.”
Granite Construction Company’s Regional Manager, Rod Cooper, said Granite’s crews are clearly aware of the company’s fire season protocol. The Sparks company will celebrate its 90th anniversary today.
“When our people are working in highly flammable areas, doing welding or working on equipment, we will clear the brush with equipment or wet it with a water truck or have a fire watcher,” Cooper said. “Those are the types of precautions that we, at Granite, take.”
Coopers said the company is currently not working in any high-risk areas.
“But we are highly sensitive to the dry winter and will take extra precautions, particularly this year,” Cooper said.