Our network

Fire danger a constant threat for Mount Charleston community |

Title (Max 100 Characters)

Fire danger a constant threat for Mount Charleston community

During the summer, Mount Charleston swells with visitors as valley dwellers flock to the high country to escape the heat.

“It’s really beautiful,” said Sam Kafle of Las Vegas. “It’s really cool. A lot cooler than I expected it to be.”

A lot of work has been done to protect the community from wildfire, including a project to thin downed timber and create fire breaks.

Lino Madrid of Las Vegas added, “I love Mount Charleston. I try to come up here once a month to just unplug, even if it’s by myself.”

But there is an ever-present threat. The fire danger is high, and although summer thunderstorms provide rain to this thick forest, the lightning that comes with it can ignite the parched trees.

  • Clouds build over the mountains during a drive to Mount Charleston on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Patrick Walker/KLAS-TV)
  • Gray clouds suggest a chance of rain in Kyle Canyon on Mount Charleston on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Patrick Walker/KLAS-TV)
  • Firefighting equipment at the ready on Mount Charleston on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Patrick Walker/KLAS-TV)
  • Clouds creep over the Spring Mountains over rental cabins in Kyle Canyon on Mount Charleston on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Patrick Walker/KLAS-TV)
  • A dry hillside in Kyle Canyon shows the work done to minimize fire danger to the community on Mount Charleston on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Patrick Walker/KLAS-TV)
  • Gray clouds snear Cathedral Rock in Kyle Canyon on Mount Charleston on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Patrick Walker/KLAS-TV)
  • Dry timber covers a hillside on Mount Charleston on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Patrick Walker/KLAS-TV)
  • Hikers enjoy a break from the heat in the Las Vegas valley during a trip to Mount Charleston on Friday, July 26, 2019. (Patrick Walker/KLAS-TV)

That was the case this week, when lightning struck a tree above Lee Canyon Ski Resort. Firefighters went to the remote site and found the fire was confined to a single tree.

A USA Today study of roughly 5,000 western communities ranks Mount Charleston more at risk for wildfire than most. The town itself only has one road in and out, and the steep terrain and dense trees can lead a wildfire to spread rapidly.

Add in a wet winter and spring, and you have more ladder fuels to burn. That fuel helps fire spread into the treetops, which can be a nightmare scenario for firefighters.

Ray Johnson of the U.S. Forest Service said, “So then when we do have fires later in the summer, there’s more fuel to burn. So that is certainly happening this last year.”

The high fire danger is something residents always keep in mind, but something visitors sometimes forget.

“Living in the valley, I feel like I don’t hear the stories about Mount Charleston that much,” Madrid said. “And yeah, that’s crazy to think about.”

Green Valley Deals