Fire. Fire. Fire.

We’ve really got to wonder how it comes down to this newspaper to bring this to people’s attention. It’s really hot out. So hot, in fact, we’ve got those occasional heat-driven afternoon thunderstorms. Lightning from those storms sometimes cause wildfires.

Are you with us so far?

Along seemingly unrelated lines, Northern Nevada has gone through a burst housing bubble. Thousands of homes were foreclosed upon, and people were thrown out. When those people left, they stopped watering their lawns and their shrubs and their trees. If we weren’t in the middle of a drought, it’s possible that many would have survived, but the fact is, things have been unnaturally dry.

And while all that was happening, we’ve seen entire trees turning brown, standing like come-hither candles, victims of insects and disease, particularly conifers and particularly the bark beetle. Trees weakened by drought and other environmental factors are more susceptible to insects and disease. And once a diseased tree is dead, if left in place, those insects move onto the next victim in a vicious cycle. Dead trees are more susceptible to explosive ignition from lightning strikes.

Keeping up?

Now we’re going to ask you to open your eyes. As you ride, bike or drive around town, check out the condition of the trees. Particularly look on road rights of way, maybe the islands on Plumb Lane, for example. Check out the trees and shrubs around foreclosed homes—in fact, the condition of the landscaping is often an indicator of whether a house is bank-owned.

As you drive up into the rim of the valley, as in the Old Southwest, just try and count the dead trees and shrubs. Perhaps start at Arlington Avenue over by I-80 and follow it up past Plumb where it turns into Skyline Boulevard. If you follow it far enough, you’ll end up near the area that burned in the Caughlin Fire, fueled in part by dead and dying trees.

Look, if Reno ever wants to re-earn the moniker City of Trembling Leaves, we have got to remove trees that are dead and dying from our properties. The city’s forester must remove dead and dying trees from the city-owned thoroughfares. The City Council must write some codes to force banks to maintain the properties they own.

The rest of us have got to be responsible for the landscaping we have. While many of us have chosen to xeriscape our properties, we’ve also got to remember that even drought-tolerant plants need water. Part of the problem is that drought-stressed trees may not show the damage for two or three years. Homeowners just have to be aware and watchful.

The bottom line is we’ve created a very dangerous situation in our little valley. Under the wrong conditions, these dead trees can explode like Roman candles and threaten nearby homes. Everyone shares responsibility for protecting this community from fire.