RENO — Plans are being made to thin trees and other potential fuel over a large area of forest and brush in southwestern Reno to reduce the threat of a catastrophic wildfire.
The Arrowhawk project is designed to treat a landscape experts say has a “high potential of uncharacteristic and often catastrophic” fire, and to protect homes along the eastern flank of the Carson Range.
Work could begin next summer, officials said.
In July 2007, sparks from construction equipment started a fire that raged through the mountains above Caughlin Ranch, charring 2,700 acres and threatening hundreds of homes.
“The potential for widespread damage is definitely there,” said Beth Nabors, fuels planner for the U.S. Forest Service’s Carson Ranger District.
“There are conditions there that could cause a fire not only threatening the community, but damaging the forest and the watershed,” Nabors said.
“There’s going to be a fire there eventually. It’s just a matter of time.”
The project would involve thinning hundreds of acres of overgrown pine and fir forest and removing dense fields of manzanita and mountain mahogany.
Sheep would be used to graze about 2,500 acres, or about 4 square miles, of highly flammable cheatgrass.
The Arrowhawk Fuels Reduction and Ecosystem Enhancement Project is a centerpiece in a wider strategy to reduce fire danger along the eastern Sierra from Reno to Douglas County.
About 100,000 homes are in the 364-square-mile area, 60,000 of them outside urban core areas and deemed to be at significant risk of fire.
The estimated cost of the broader effort is between $89 million and $149 million.
“We like the way it’s coming together,” said Kurt Ladipow, Washoe County’s fire services coordinator.
Efforts to reduce fuel loads and fire danger “is some of the most important work we do,” Ladipow said.