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KUNR Today: People Of Color Most Likely Impacted By Wildfire, Tahoe Rim Trail Damaged By Caldor Fire

An image of a firefighter looking at flames, standing alone during nighttime.
Courtesy Austin Catlin
Bureau of Land Management
BLM wildland firefighters responded to the Walker Levee Fire in Idaho.

Here are the local news headlines for the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021.

Report: People Of Color More Impacted By Wildfires

By Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

The nonprofit research group Headwaters Economics found that more than half of the residents living in fire-prone areas are Black, Indigenous or people of color. Headwaters analyzed the risks of fire and smoke for each county, but also information about residents – including age, race, income level and English proficiency.

Associate Director Kelly Pohl said those factors can add to the impact of fires, which are growing larger and more frequent due to climate change.

"Wildfire smoke and environmental stress can exacerbate existing medical conditions, which are more common among the elderly, the disabled and people living in poverty," Pohl said.

For example, Owyhee County, Idaho has a disproportionately high share of residents with disabilities, and in Park County, Colorado, a fifth of the population is older than 65.

Pohl said she hopes the report will guide policy makers as they decide where to invest in wildfire resilience.

Homeowners Near California Wildfires Won't Lose Insurance
By The Associated Press

Homeowners and renters in 22 Northern California counties impacted by wildfires are guaranteed not to lose property insurance policies for the next year. State law temporarily bans insurance companies from dropping customers who live in ZIP codes that are either next to or within the perimeter of a declared wildfire disaster. Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued six “state of emergency” declarations for wildfires since July 23. Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued a temporary moratorium Monday for about 325,000 policyholders who live near those wildfires. This is the third year California has issued this moratorium since the law was first passed in 2018.

Parts Of The Tahoe Rim Trail Damaged From Caldor Fire, Remain Closed
By Lucia Starbuck

Parts of the Tahoe Rim Trail, which goes around the lake, are closed until late October. The trail association’s Outdoor Programs Manager Lindsey Schultz explained what some of that damage looks like.

“A lot of that’s going to be burned trees, so a burnt tree is now going to be compromised and may fall without warning,” Schultz said.

Other concerns include erosion due to the absence of vegetation and the possibility of fire flare ups. Schultz said forest and firefighting officials are still assessing the full damage, but the Caldor Fire has already created immediate effects on outdoor recreation.

“A lot of people [are] canceling their plans to come up and hike on the Rim Trail, [and] a ton of volunteer opportunities, important trail building workdays, have been canceled,” Schultz said.

Recreationists are urged to avoid closed areas. Information on trail conditions can be found here.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Reno Drops Citations Against Five Homeless Advocates
By The Associated Press

A lawyer for five advocates for Reno’s homeless who were cited for remaining in a park after hours to protest a sweep of homeless encampments says city prosecutors have dropped the case against them. The five advocates who earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges accusing them of the after-hours violation were scheduled to go to trial on Monday in Reno Municipal Court. But Kenneth Stover, their lawyer, told the Reno Gazette Journal a prosecutor called the judge at the last minute and offered to drop the case if the advocates agreed not to sue the city.

Nevada Housing Coalition Pushing State For Federal Affordable Housing Funding
By Lucia Starbuck

The Nevada Housing Coalition is asking the state to invest $500 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to address affordable housing needs.

Some of the recommendations include providing deeply subsidized affordable homes with access to services and expanding down payment assistance programs for first-generation homebuyers.

The coalition says the funding should focus on housing needs for Indigenous communities, people of color, seniors and workers in industries impacted by the pandemic. Nevada received a total of $6.7 billion dollars from the federal relief package.

Governor: Nevada Getting First 150 Afghans For Resettlement
By The Associated Press

About 150 people from Afghanistan are coming to Nevada, where state officials say about 100 will go to the Reno-Sparks area and about 50 to the Las Vegas area. Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office said Tuesday the first people to arrive under the federal Afghan Placement and Assistance program aren't available for immediate interviews due to safety concerns. The state awaits word from the U.S. State Department about how many Afghan refugees and special immigrant visa holders will eventually be sent to Nevada. The Democratic governor says the state is and will continue to be welcoming for all. Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada Deacon Thomas Roberts says a lack of affordable housing is a key factor in the resettlement plan.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
Bert is KUNR’s senior correspondent. He covers stories that resonate across Nevada and the region, with a focus on environment, political extremism and Indigenous communities.
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