Committee examines ways to reduce wildfire danger in Nevada

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Steve Marcus

A fire crew heads out after a burnout in the Rainbow subdivision on Mount Charleston Tuesday, July 9, 2013.

Wed, Jan 8, 2020 (2 a.m.)

State Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, remembers visiting Mount Charleston in 2013 during a wildfire that burned 28,000 acres of the Spring Mountains. Looking around the houses on the mountain outside Las Vegas, he saw fuel everywhere.

“It scared me to death,” he said. “There’s people that have their houses built around huge pine trees and if you get a (wildfire), it’s going up. You can burn your house down.”

A legislative committee is examining the impact of wildfires in Nevada and will propose bills for the 2021 Legislature to consider to mitigate the danger. It met for the first time Tuesday.

The initial meeting focused mainly on existing fire prevention efforts, but lawmakers discussed a potential program to reduce the fire risk around Mount Charleston.

After the meeting, Goicoechea and Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, D-Henderson, who chairs the committee, said a measure could be implemented similar to one by the Southern Nevada Water Authority that offers a rebate of $3 a square foot to remove grass and replace it with desert landscaping.

A similar subsidy could be offered if residents took steps to mitigate the amount of undergrowth around their homes to create a fire buffer.

Swank said the impact of wildfires in Nevada is not the same as in a state like California, where fires often reach densely populated areas. Wildfires in Nevada generally break out in rural areas, impacting wildlife habitats and the livelihoods of ranchers and farmers.

But populated areas around the Spring Mountains and Lake Tahoe are also at risk, Goicoechea said.

The committee can propose up to five bills.

“There could be a lot of different things,” Swank said. “It depends on what the committee kind of wants to do. I mean, we’ve got three more meetings where we need to get lots of different voices at the table so that we can come up with some ideas.”

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