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Land Management

BLM installs firefighting water sources

Lassen County Times of Susanville, California

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As historic drought conditions persist across Northeast California and northwest Nevada and the need to protect important sagebrush habitats increases, the Bureau of Land Management has positioned portable water reservoirs to help firefighters improve response time to wildfires.

The BLM's Northern California District has placed eight temporary water tanks, each holding 18,000 gallons, in strategic locations on public lands in far northwest Nevada and northeast California. The tanks will provide refilling locations for water tenders, wildland fire engines and possibly, helicopters.

"We typically rely on rangeland reservoirs to supply water tenders, engines and water-dropping helicopters," said Shawn

Compton, a fire operations specialist in the BLM Applegate Field Office headquartered in Alturas. "After four years of drought, many of these sources are dry or very limited. Our water tenders, fire engines and helicopters must travel greater distances to refill. We think these tanks have the potential to cut in half these refilling trips. We will be evaluating their effectiveness."

The BLM is also placing greater urgency on fighting rangeland fires in sage-steppe ecosystems vitally important to greater sage-grouse, a bird under consideration for listing as threatened or endangered.

These habitats are also critical for wildlife, livestock and wild horses and burros.

"Under an order from U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, we are building a strategy to reduce the size, complexity and intensity of wildland fires," said BLM Northern California District Manager Nancy Haug. "Part of that strategy includes positioning firefighting resources for more effective rangeland fire response."

BLM fire managers considered several factors in placement of the water tanks. Location and frequency of lightning-caused fires, proximity to critical sagebrush habitats and accessibility for water tenders and fire engines were key considerations.

Water tenders will be used to keep the tanks full, and fire-fighting water tenders will access them directly during fires. Testing will determine whether water-dropping helicopters can refill from the tanks.

In northwest Nevada, the Applegate Field Office placed the tanks in the Cowhead, Board Corral, Steven's Camp, Tuledad, Nellie Springs and Highway 8A-34 junction areas.

In northeast California, the Eagle Lake Field Office placed tanks at the BLM Litchfield Corrals and at the BLM Ravendale Fire Station.

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Original Publication Date: July 28, 2015

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