The forest in the Tahoe Basin and surrounding areas has four times the amount of potential fuel for wildfires than before Americans settled the area, those who attended a public briefing in Truckee Wednesday on the risk of forest fires.
Sixty area residents crowded into the Truckee Donner utility district board room Wednesday morning to hear three fire experts share tips on how to avoid devastating fires like the recent Angora Fire in South Lake Tahoe that burned 3,100 acres and destroyed more than 250 structures.
Participants received a 20-page pamphlet, "Living with Fire " A Guide for the Homeowner," that summarized Lake Tahoe's fire history and described the existing hazard from an overstocked forest. The handout also advised forest homeowners how to implement safety measures in and around the home.
Wednesday's audience watched a slide show of the Angora Fire accompanied by a talk by John Pickett of the Fire Safe Council. Also presenting information about managing local forests was District Ranger Joanne Roubique of the U.S. Forest Service, while spokesman Gene Welch of the Truckee Fire Protection District' described local resources for homeowners. The Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation hosted the meeting.
"This issue spread like wildfire," quipped foundation Program Director Phebe Bell.
Roubique said she was impressed by the turnout, adding that homeowners play the most important role in protecting their property because they are responsible for the work to make their homes easier to defend from fire. Those who attended took the message to heart.
"As much as my husband and I have done around the house for fire safety, I'm going back to do more," said 14-year Truckee resident Lorna Leyton after the two-hour session.
Leyton's response was what the speakers hoped for.
"All of the wildland firefighting agencies struggle with the opportunity of [communicating] to their communities," said Roubique.
Truckee Public Safety and Information Officer Welch said he hopes the public takes away two predominant messages: "The best methods and resources for creating defensible space. And that defensible space is just a small portion of fire safety " don't lose focus."
Welch compared fire protection to driving a car " one aspect is learning to drive in the snow, but that skill does not guarantee that the driver is a safe highway driver.
Near the end of Wednesday's meeting, Truckee Fire's Chief Bryce Keller's gave an impromptu speech that echoed Welch's sentiment.
"Balance your focus to not just cutting brush but fire safety fundamentals inside the home," Keller said before asking the audience to check their fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. "We burn more homes from the inside out than the outside in."