Wildfire scorches 84 acres Monday north of Lake Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wildfire scorches 84 acres Monday north of Lake Tahoe

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Emergency crews worked quickly to extinguish a wildfire that charred 84 acres Monday in the area of Boca Reservoir. The blaze — dubbed the Boca Fire — started for unknown reasons at 3 p.m. and ballooned to 75 acres by 6 p.m., officials said. It eventually grew to 84 acres before it was 100 percent contained by 10 p.m. Monday, according to the U.S. Forest Service. No on was hurt and no structures were threatened, said Paul Spencer, public information officer for the Truckee Fire Protection District, and the nearby Glenshire subdivision was never in danger. The fire burned off Interstate 80 near the old Boca township, east of the reservoir's dam. "I live on the bluff directly across from the fire; had a bird's-eye-view," said Truckee resident Marianne Porter. "Scary, but amazing and impressive action by local and state fire officials." The nearby Boca Springs campground, east of the reservoir in the Tahoe National Forest, was evacuated as a precaution, according to USFS. People were allowed to come back Monday evening. Windy conditions and the dry nature of the Sierra landscape due to the ongoing drought enabled the blaze to spread and run up the slopes east of Boca. Forward progress was stopped just before 6 p.m., according to Truckee Fire. Officials from Truckee Fire and USFS, as well as Calfire, North Tahoe Fire Protection District, North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, Squaw Valley Fire Protection District, Meeks Bay Fire Protection District and Northstar Fire Protection District responded. In all, 21 engines, four air tankers, three helicopters, four water tenders and two dozers, along with several ground crews, responded.

Donner divers clean up lake

TRUCKEE – Nine rescue divers clad in long underwear under their drysuits dipped into the rippling 51 degree water at Donner Lake’s west end boat ramp last week. In teams of two or three their heads disappeared below the breezy surface and they began their search – for garbage. As part of ongoing under-water search and rescue training, rescue divers from the Placer County Sheriff’s Department, Truckee Police Department and the Truckee Fire Protection District logged under-water hours while pulling sunken tires, pipes and junk off the lake’s bottom. “Today we found everything from beer cans and bottles to a picnic table and tires,” said Truckee fire Capt. Rod Brock, training officer for the joint-agency dive team. “The police department was going to do a surface clean up (on the lake), and we needed to schedule a dive anyway, so it just naturally came together. I think that we will just make it an annual event.” Last year, dive teams responded to a drowning at Boca Reservoir, and a drowning and a near-drowning at Donner Lake. “The dive team is used for rescue, not for sustained searches,” said Truckee fire Capt. Craig Harvey, the dive team supervisor for both the Boca and Donner Lake drownings. “In cold water drownings, there is still a one hour window in which the person can be resuscitated without brain damage.” After that, the window gets smaller.” To prepare for such rescues, divers train monthly and practice everything from ice diving to low-visibility search techniques. These trainings take serious planning because diving at elevation in waters that are often below freezing increases health risks for anyone venturing into the deep. “You could spend a lot of time in 70 degree waters in a thin wet suit,” Brock said. “But in the cold waters that we have, stress is added to the body; hypothermia is the main issue.” At elevation, divers can only safely venture to about 80 feet, which is equivalent to about 120 feet deep at sea level, according to Truckee Police Sgt. Tim Hargrove. Divers must also carry extra weight to fight buoyancy and plan for slower ascent rates. But once such factors have been considered, diving in Donner, Lake Tahoe and other local waters can be safe and even enjoyable for recreational divers. It’s no Barrier Reef, but might still be worth the thrill. “You see fish; mostly trout. A lot of people dive for crawfish,” Hargrove said. “Here, it’s more about just getting in the water and diving, not finding ship wrecks.”

West Shore ambulance service not settled

Residents of the West Shore of Lake Tahoe have an emergency on their hands – or at least they will, if something isn’t done soon. On Tuesday, Fifth District Supervisor Dave Solaro spearheaded the creation of a citizens committee to explore ambulance service options to the West Shore. The ambulance dilemma was one of the main items on the agenda at the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors meeting at Tahoe Paradise Park on Tuesday. Currently, the communities of Meeks Bay, Rubicon and Tahoma are under service with the North Tahoe Fire Protection District. But NTFPD is raising its fees in June – from $38,000 per year to $113,000. If West Shore residents decide they want to keep NTFPD, they must somehow come up with the money. One idea is a sales tax, which would go before voters in June. Another option is increased parcel fees. Or, West Shore communities could contract with Lake Tahoe Ambulance in South Shore. “Contracting with South Lake Tahoe is not really not an option for us,” said Edward Miller, president of the Meeks Bay Fire Protection District Board of Directors. “There are distance and weather concerns. You can’t say to people who call 911 that it’s going to take two hours for an ambulance to get there.” Solaro and Second District Supervisor Ray Nutting will be working with West Shore communities to plan their next move. “Ultimately it will be up to these communities as to what the final outcome will be,” Solaro said. “But we’re here to help.” Solaro indicated that one solution could be for a contract with South Lake Tahoe for ambulance service, using NTFPD as a backup during times when the roads are closed due to snow.

A block party of the conservation kind

Burning coals and burning houses are two parts of a barbecue designed to raise awareness of fire safety measures in the Lake Tahoe Basin this weekend. The “Conservation Block Party” will conclude with demonstration fires on parts of a model home. “We need to have people understand what will actually burn down your house,” said John Pickett. “That is what this demonstration will show. It’s going to be great.” Details of a home, such as screens over attic vents, are often the barriers that will prevent it from burning during a forest fire, according to Pickett. In addition to a guided walking tour highlighting the defensible space and best management practices utilized by nearby homes, information on a streamlined permitting process for California residents will also be available. “It’s easy; it’s painless; we’re not going to clear cut your property,” said Pickett. Three fire protection districts on the California side of the basin have been recently granted memoranda of understanding from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. These memorandums allow the districts to issue tree removal permits for defensible space projects, making the process more efficient and cost effective, according to Pickett. “We really encourage people to come out and find out how easy it is to get this work done now,” Pickett said. A free barbecue will take place between the walking tour and burn demonstration. Parking will be limited, and the event’s sponsors urge carpooling. Conservation Block Party When: Saturday, June 2 Guided Walking Tour: 10:30 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. Free barbecue lunch: 11:40 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. Live Burn Demo: 12:15 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Where: Boulder Mountain Drive, across from Lake Valley Fire Station No. 5 Registration is encouraged for the event. Call the Tahoe Resource Conservation District at (530) 543-1501 ext. 113 to RSVP.

Fire protection district announces promotions

The Lake Valley Fire Protection District announced the promotion of three district employees at its board meeting on Jan. 14. The promoted personnel include Ryan Mahnken, Chad Stephen, Andy Kaufer and Michael Corey. Firefighter/paramedic Ryan Mahnken was promoted to engineer. Mahnken has been in Tahoe since he was 2 months old, and began working at Lake Valley Fire Protection District in 2005. Prior to Lake Valley he worked for Remsa in Reno as a paramedic. He holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational communication from Sacramento State University and has a wife and two children. Engineer Chad Stephen was promoted to captain. Stephen came to Tahoe from San Diego in 1992 and has been with the district for 17 years. He holds a fire science degree from Lake Tahoe Community College and is married with one son. Captain Andy Kaufer was promoted to battalion chief. Andy has been in Tahoe since 1977 and has worked for the District since 1992. He graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in photography, and is married with two children. The promotions were made possible by the retirement of Battalion Chief Michael Corey, who served the district for 25 years. “Chief Corey’s experience and dedication will be missed by everyone at Lake Valley,” said Fire Chief Jeff Michael. “We wish him the best in his retirement.”

Work begins on historic Boca & Loyalton Railroad restoration

TRUCKEE, Calif. — The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, in partnership with the Tahoe National Forest and the community of Loyalton, began work this week on converting the historic Boca & Loyalton Railroad grade to a Forest Service system trail for nonmotorized recreation. According to a news release from stewardship group, the Boca & Loyalton Railroad was said to have had the greatest effect in assisting with the growth of the economy in the Sierra Valley. The railroad ran for 26 miles from Boca (between Verdi and Truckee on Interstate 80) to Loyalton. It was constructed in 1901 and ran until 1916, hauling timber from the outer reaches of the mountains to the sawmills in Loyalton, which at the time had 5 mills in operation. According to Sierra Buttes, the project will focus on restoring approximately 8 miles of the historic railroad grade to meet Forest Service specification for a non-motorized, shared-use trail. Work will include clearing brush from the trail corridor; removing root wads from the tread area; re-constructing damaged sections of tread; and building rock structures and drains to armor the tread and to protect from sedimentation in the nearby Smithneck Creek. Funding for this project is provided through a grant from Sierra County Resource Advisory Committee (RAC).

Guest View: Rebates, free consultations ease homeowners through regulations

Sometimes it’s challenging to be a property owner in the Lake Tahoe Basin. As is the case in many special places, regulations and the costs associated with complying with them are a fact of life. Luckily, a few key agencies in the basin have stepped up to the plate to help property owners with the expenses they incur integrating fire defensible space, best management practices (BMPs) and water conservation. Read on for information about many of the rebate programs being offered to homeowners in the basin. The Tahoe Resource Conservation District is a nonregulatory, grant-funded agency that educates homeowners about backyard conservation issues, such as vegetation management and erosion control. The TRCD has free consultations available to property owners in the basin, including vegetation and invasive-weed consultations. These include site-specific vegetation plans and assistance with native and adapted plant selection. Plants are available for all properties receiving these consultations, including those in the Angora fire burn area. The TRCD also conducts BMP site evaluations and final inspections for single family residences in California. BMPs help to control soil erosion and improve water quality. The TRCD has BMP materials available for demonstration homes and BMP monitoring participants. For more information, call (530) 543-1501, ext. 113, or visit http://www.tahoercd.org. The district’s counterpart on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe offers the same quality services. You can contact them at http://www.ntcd.org or (775) 586-1610. Both conservation districts work in collaboration with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to educate the public about erosion control and how it works hand-in-hand with fire defensible space. The South Tahoe Public Utility District is a public agency that provides drinking water and wastewater collection, treatment and recycling in South Lake Tahoe. The district has been awarded two state water conservation grants to implement a Turf Buyback Program. Lawn areas help provide defensible space, play areas for children and pets, and serve an integral role in a comprehensive landscaping plan. However, turf is the most water-intensive landscaping option a homeowner can choose. Nonfunctional lawns, ones that are rarely used, waste water and represent an ongoing cost in both time and resources. The district rebates $2 per square foot to replace turf areas with attractive water-efficient landscaping. In the Angora area, the district offers a rebate of $1 per square foot for new water-efficient landscaping up to 800 square feet. For more information, call (530) 543-6268 or visit http://www.stpud.us. The Nevada Fire Safe Council is a coalition of concerned citizens who share a common interest in preventing the loss of life, property and valuable natural resources to wildfire. The NVFSC works with the fire districts and protects natural and manmade resources by motivating citizens to make their homes, neighborhoods and communities fire-safe on the Nevada and California sides of the basin. The Fire Safe Council has a rebate program to assist homeowners in completing their defensible space. Rebates are available for 50 percent of fuels reduction costs – up to $1,000. The rebate program is in place for residents within the North Tahoe, North Lake Tahoe, Lake Valley, Meeks Bay and Tahoe Douglas fire protection districts. Residents in the city of South Lake Tahoe or served by the Fallen Leaf Fire Department will be eligible for rebates beginning in November. The five-step defensible-space rebate process is: 1. Contact your local fire protection district to schedule a defensible space inspection. 2. Contact the Fire Safe Council to receive a voucher. Vouchers expire within 60 days of issuance. If you are not a member of the NVFSC, join for $20. 3. Do your defensible space work. 4. Once the work is completed, contact the NVFSC to schedule a rebate evaluation. 5. If the property passes, the NVFSC will mail a rebate check within 21 days of the completed evaluation. For more information, call (877) LT-NVFSC or (530) 543-FIRE, or visit http://www.nvfsc.org. The Lake Tahoe Basin is a special place. There are many resources available to property owners within the basin that help to improve lake clarity, create defensible space and conserve water in an integrated way. The resources provided by these agencies aid in keeping our area safe and beautiful for generations to come. – Courtney Walker works for the Tahoe Resource Conservation District.

Shooting restrictions affect Tahoe region, gun safety urged

The Carson Ranger District recently issued a shooting restriction on its lands due to multiple wildfires in western Nevada that burned approximately 500 acres between May and June. And while the fires are still under investigation, there have been indications that someone taking target practice was the culprit. The Carson Ranger District covers thousands of acres of land, including the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and stretches from Markleeville in California to north of Reno in Nevada. "We have a lot of problems with people not picking up their brass afterward," said Erica Hupp, public affairs officer at Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. "People have also used trees as targets and brought out sofas and TVs. We have the restriction in place, but our big push has been for people to [shoot] safely and responsibly." According to Hupp, the restriction will be enforced through September or until conditions improve. Hunting is allowed, however, if the proper permits and areas are being used during designated seasons. With all of this going on so close to Lake Tahoe, anyone looking to fire off some rounds will need to review where to go and what rules to follow. According to South Tahoe Police Department, discharging a firearm in certain areas is not permitted. "You can't shoot within the city limits," said Lt. Shannon Laney, public information officer at SLTPD. "You can go to Douglas County and Carson City. They have ranges there." Gardnerville has a range and may be the closest to those in South Lake looking to get some outdoor target practice in. The Douglas County shooting range is located at 875 Dump Road in Gardnerville. If you're in Carson City, the Carson Rifle and Pistol Range has some facilities and they are not affected by the shooting ban. "The Carson range is still open and it's the only place [in Carson City] you're legally allowed to shoot," said Randall Brooks, range administrator at Carson Rifle and Pistol Range. "Anything in the Carson Ranger District, which includes Toiyabe National Forest that goes into Lake Tahoe, target shooting is prohibited." There are a couple spots in the Truckee area that provide some open outdoor shooting. "There's a place called Boca and they have a range out there," said Paul Purchard, of Truckee Tahoe Firearms. "It's by the Boca Reservoir, off of Highway 80. It's not manned so there aren't any fees or anything like that." According to Purchard, the closest indoor range is in Reno. The U.S. Forest Service does have general guidelines for shooting on USFS land. As indicated by the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, shooting is allowed on USFS land as long as proper safety guidelines are followed and there aren't local or state ordinances that prevent shooting. They recommend firearms not to be discharged within 150 yards of a structure, occupied area, within or into a cave, or across a road or body of water. It is also suggested that any area used for target practice has a backstop that can absorb rounds and not deflect debris. Aside from just the shooting, keeping an area safe and clean can be a challenge if it's unsupervised. "We sometimes get a concentration of people in one area shooting and trash accumulates or people take things out to shoot and leave it," said Michael Woodbridge, public affairs officer for Tahoe National Forest. "I think the local gun club here helps keep the Boca shooting area clean and tries to manage it." Woodbridge also said if anyone does go target shooting, a tree isn't a good target. "If you shoot a tree or something like that, that's resource damage," he said. "People just need to be aware so they don't get a citation."

Incumbents win Lake Valley Fire Protection District

Unofficial results show that Robert Bettencourt, Gregory Herback and Ryan Wagoner will retain their seats on the Lake Valley Fire Protection District. Bettencourt got 28. 69 percent of the vote; Herback won 27.77 percent of the vote and Wagnoner received 28.12 percent of the vote. Challenger Vernon Parker received 14.73 percent of the vote. There were 6,475 ballots cast.

Early results: Lake Valley Fire Protection District

Lake Valley Fire Protection District early mail-in results show each of the incumbents having a sizeable lead over newcomer Vernon Parker. There are three seats open on the board. Total Votes 2978 VERNON PARKER 452 15.18% ROBERT BETTENCOURT 849 28.51% GREGORY HERBACK 839 28.17% RYAN WAGONER 826 27.74