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Invasive Species Management

Las Vegas Wash Controlled Burns

The Las Vegas Wash Coordination Committee (LVWCC) began conducting controlled burns in 2003 to dispose of more than 35 acres of tamarisk. The prescribed burns were coordinated by the LVWCC on behalf of the Clark County Wetlands Park.

Prescribed burning is an important management tool in the Las Vegas Wash weed management program, reducing more than 24,460 cubic yards of tamarisk and other invasive weeds to ashes from 2003 to 2008.

As large areas of tamarisk were cleared with heavy equipment or cut with chainsaws, the material was assembled into piles in designated stockpile areas and burned by the Nevada Division of Forestry Fire Crews under a permit with the Clark County Fire Department.

By burning the cut tamarisk, the volume of material sent to the landfill is reduced dramatically, providing a cost savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars as well as reducing the fuel load at the Wash, hopefully resulting in fewer wildfires. The Nevada Division of Forestry conducted the burns as part of its fuels mitigation and hazardous fuels reduction programs. Approval to burn was received from the Clark County Fire Department and Clark County Air Quality Management.

Controlled burns of tamarisk at the Three Kids Weir
Controlled burns of tamarisk at the Three Kids Weir

During the burns, fire behavior and smoke plume were monitored for potential problems and spot checks were made for escaped fires. Afterward, the site is secured and monitored.

The burn program involved the coordination of more than five project partners, a lengthy permitting process, extensive notifications to the community, and very specific wind, temperature and other weather conditions requirements. Exhaustive safety measures were taken to maintain control of the prescribed fires, resulting in several prescribed burns being called off due to weather.

Prescribed burns always make great opportunities to bring media attention to the project. Over the years, news broadcasts and newspapers have covered the prescribed burn program bringing positive publicity for the Clark County Wetlands Park, Las Vegas Wash, Nevada Division of Forestry and Clark County Fire Department.

The Burns

Visitor Center Weir - April 2003

The first prescribed burn was conducted on April 9 and 10, 2003. Sixteen acres of tamarisk (1,500 cubic yards) consolidated into 12 piles was burned during the prescribed fire. The location of the burn was on County property, east of the Clark County Nature Preserve, off of Hollywood Boulevard.

Demonstration Weir - December 2003

Approximately 2.3 acres of tamarisk and reeds were burned upstream of the Demonstration Weir on Dec. 9, 2003. The material was cut to make way for the bank stabilization at the Demonstration Weir and clear an area for revegetation of native species along the Wash channel. The material was mechanically cleared from the soil by root plowing or cut with chainsaws. The debris (approximately 3,035 cubic yards) was placed in three slash piles for burning. The burn was successfully completed in one day with mop up and spot checks continuing for several days thereafter.

Bostick Weir - November 2005

Under an early fall sky, a warm glow could be seen in the Clark County Wetlands Park on Nov. 8, 2005. After three attempts, fouled by inclement weather conditions, six tamarisk windrows consisting of nearly 2,700 cubic yards of material were burned. The 8.7 acres of tamarisk cut to make room for the Calico Weir and other revegetation sites, were quickly reduced to ash within one day. Channel 13 covered the story on their evening news broadcast.

S108 - November 2005

In the evening of Nov. 28, 2005, a prescribed burn was conducted on the south side of the Wash near Pabco road and Sunset, north of the City of Henderson Water Reclamation District. More than 60 acres of tamarisk and other weeds were cleared from the site to make room for a mesquite bosque just weeks earlier. In total, approximately 40 acres of tamarisk was removed and both chipped material and ash was removed from the site. The burn was conducted over several days and was the largest burn yet.

Bostick Weir- January 2007

On Jan. 9, 2007 a controlled burn was conducted by the Nevada Division of Forestry on the north side of the Las Vegas Wash across from the Bostick Weir with great success. Approximately 52 personnel conducted the burn. This was the fifth burn at the Las Vegas Wash and reduced more than 8,300 cubic yards of tamarisk material to less than 60 cubic yards.

Bostick Weir- October 2008

During the last week of October 2008, a controlled burn was conducted by the Nevada Division of Forestry at the Las Vegas Wash. Approximately ten acres of woody debris was destroyed in the burn, consisting of tamarisk and willows. The tamarisk was previously removed for native plant restoration and the willows had grown too dense and large, posing a potential risk to the function of the weirs during a flood event.

The management and reduction of tamarisk is a high priority for the Wash Team in meeting their restoration goals. Using this method of removal is a cost effective way for the Wash Team to remove large quantities of this invasive weed. Had the debris been excavated and hauled out in dumpsters, this project would have cost more than $150,000. By burning, approximately $100,000 was saved.

Las Vegas Wash Project Coordination Team • 100 City Parkway, Suite 700 • Las Vegas, NV 89106 • (702) 822-3300