SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - Fallout over a prescribed burn continued to smolder last week as a public officials admonished Lake Tahoe's federal environmental agency.
The prescribed burn in Slaughterhouse Canyon in April was an example of "totally irresponsible behavior, said Shelly Aldean, Carson City Supervisor and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board member.
The United States Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit administered the burn on the East Shore of Lake Tahoe on April 18. It covered 225 acres and resulted in a large plume of smoke visible from all points around Lake Tahoe.
Aldean said billows of smoke were visible in the Carson Valley and the smell was pungent.
"There was so much smoke in the Carson Valley that I called the fire chief to find out what was happening," Aldean said during a May 26 TRPA meeting. "The winds were brisk and there should not have been burning that day. I heard the fires were left unattended. It's absolutely irresponsible."
Aldean said had the wind turned, residents in Glenbrook would have been endangered and the fire could have turned catastrophic.
"I sympathize with the efficiency of pile burning techniques, but they need to be used judiciously," she said. "There needs to be tight controls."
Assertions that the fire was left unattended are false and the weather conditions were optimal for ignition, said Cheva Heck, spokeswoman for the Forest Service.
"The forest service has a number of procedures that must be met before a prescribed burning can occur," said Heck. "But we will continue to explore ways to improve procedures regarding prescribed fire."
The burn was conducted when snow was on the ground, fire risk was low and the burn area was supervised by forest service workers overnight, Heck said.
The forest service is willing to respond to community concerns regarding the incident and future prescribed burns, Heck added.
"I understand the community's concerns and public communication will be better next time," she said.
However, basin residents need to understand the role that fire plays in area ecology, Heck said.
"People expressed concern about the scorch of the trees in Slaughterhouse Canyon," Heck said. " Scorch is not only unavoidable, but desirable in these instances as it simulates what would occur naturally. The forest service will continue to try and collect public support for pile burning."