CARSON CITY, Nev.—One of our greatest celebrations has the potential to become a disaster this year in Nevada. As we approach the Independence Day holiday and its fireworks, campfires and barbecues, firefighters still battle the worst fire to strike the Lake Tahoe Basin in decades.
I have seen firsthand the devastation of the Angora Fire at South Lake Tahoe. This week I walked through smoldering embers that had been a family’s home just hours earlier.
A devastating wildfire could just as easily break out on the Nevada side of the Lake. In fact, fire can strike virtually anywhere in Nevada’s vast countryside. From grass to brush to trees, our vegetation is exceptionally dry. The combination of heat, dryness and high winds have caused “Red Flag” warnings to be issued for much of the state. The extreme fire danger we normally experience in August and September has already arrived. In these conditions it only takes a spark to start an inferno. About the same time the Angora Fire began at the Lake, a lawnmower blade struck a rock, causing the spark that started a wildfire in southwest Reno.
In this time of vulnerability to wildfire, private fireworks have virtually become a public enemy. Individuals illegally setting off fireworks are blamed for fires every year, and this year such illegal activity could prove catastrophic for Nevada’s countryside. Although fireworks are sold on some reservations in Nevada, private ownership and ignition of fireworks is illegal throughout the state.
If your plans include camping, shooting or hiking in the backcountry, please check with your local fire department first to ask about fire restrictions. Remember that the exhaust system of your car, truck or ATV is hot enough to start a fire. Do not build a campfire. Take at least a gallon of water, and report any fire or smoke as soon as possible. If you are surrounded by cheatgrass, picture yourself surrounded by a sea of gasoline. Above all, resist the temptation to set off any fireworks on your own. Please enjoy one of our public fireworks displays. You will enjoy a show choreographed by a professional pyrotechnician and carefully supervised by a fire department committed to protecting your home. Celebrate our independence…safely.