Agency meets chiefs’ fire-safety demands |

Agency meets chiefs’ fire-safety demands

Kyle Magin
JIm Grant / Tribune file photo / Eric Marriott, a member of the Redding Hot Shots keeps a prescribed burn pile at bay.

Eight of nine demands by the Tahoe Basin’s fire chiefs were given a thumbs-up by Tahoe Regional Planning Agency officials, who agreed to more study on the last point.

“We were hopeful that TRPA would be in agreement with what we asked for and were pleased they were,” said Chief Mike Brown of the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.

The fire chiefs met with TRPA representatives Friday at the Lake Valley Fire Protection District in South Lake Tahoe to discuss a nine-point letter submitted by the fire chiefs last month.

Designed to make the basin more fire safe, the nine points primarily deal with defensible space and ensuring that the entire basin, both the California and Nevada sides, are following the same rules.

The chiefs submitted the letter in hopes that it would be adopted by the bistate Blue Ribbon Fire Commission.

TRPA agreed outright to eight of the nine points Friday and will launch a study into the ninth, said Jeff Cowen, TRPA community relations liaison.

The final point deals with ground coverage between five feet and 30 feet away from a structure.

The fire chiefs refer to this area as the “lean, clean and green” zone and would like to see it covered with a non-combustible material.

Cowen said that traditionally TRPA asks that this zone is covered with pine needles as part of its best management practice (BMP) guidelines. There are approximately 38,000 private residential, commercial and industrial parcels remaining to be retrofitted with water quality best management practices, according to the TRPA’s Web site. The BMPs are used to help offset the impact of development on Lake Tahoe’s clarity by preventing and capturing sediments in water runoff. Cowen said pine needles are considered a good way to mulch bare soil.

“Pine needles are the best in terms of what they give back to the soil, it’s just the best answer for the ecosystem. That being said, it does produce the highest flame when ignited, so we’re looking into alternatives because we can’t have pine needles in that zone,” Cowen said.

TRPA is considering non-combustible mulch to cover the ground in that space, but Cowen said that the study will contain their findings. TRPA will conduct the study in conjunction with the University of Nevada, Reno’s cooperative extension program. He expects native vegetation will be one of best alternatives. Cowen said the study’s findings should be presented within a month or two.

“The bistate commission is expected to present a report on their conclusions in March, but we’d like to have these points agreed upon and adopted well before then,” Cowen said.

The bi-state commission reconvenes Friday at the Granlibakken Conference Center in Tahoe City. TRPA and the fire chiefs are expected to present their progress on the nine points from the Oct. 5 meeting.

Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Agencies Proposal

The following points were submitted to the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission as a draft proposal:

1) Removal of TRPA’s Code of Ordinance requiring approval prior to removing trees within 100 feet of a building or structure to allow homeowners to meet PRC 4291 with modifications.

2) Removal of the coverage increases that result when ingress/ egress roads are required for emergency use.

3) Acceptance of a five-foot noncombustible “moat.” Rock, gravel, brick or pervious concrete applied in this area shall not be considered a coverage increase.

4) Acceptance of the removal by homeowners of all flammable material, vegetation or other combustibles including pine needles and wood mulch around a building or structure to 30 feet.

5) Acceptance of 100 feet of defensible space around any structure regardless of ownership.

6) Acceptance of up to 300 feet of defensible space on sloped properties.

7) Acceptance of the removal of native shrubs and trees under the drip-line of any tree or below any deck or overhang.

8) Understanding that all enforcement of the building standards and defensible space requirements shall be the responsibility of the local fire agency.

9) Understanding that all BMPs required by the TRPA code that are in conflict with PRC 4921 must be repealed.

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