Al Tahoe community on track to become Firewise certified |

Al Tahoe community on track to become Firewise certified

Cheyanne Neuffer

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — As California experiences historic wildfires, the Al Tahoe community is being proactive to make their neighborhood as safe as possible.

South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue last weekend participated in a Firewise community workday and created a demonstration house for the neighborhood. A neighbor was nominated to have their home be an example for the community to reinforce wildlife preparedness.

With the help of Zephyr Fire Crew and SLTFR, fuels including shrubs, brush, pine needles and other debris were removed from around the home. The home is now an example that shows what a wildlife safe home should look like.

Golden Bear is currently the only Firewise certified community within South Lake Tahoe city limits.

To get the National Firewise USA designation, the community has to take several steps including ensuring that 20% of homes in an identified area have good defensible space in a written wildfire risk assessment.

This voluntary program brings the community together to participate in raking, chipping, removing hazardous shrubs and also includes community outreach and hosting educational events.

Dianne Rees is the Al Tahoe area leader, who took the reins and is spearheading the efforts to apply and make the neighborhood a Firewise district.

Not only does being a Firewise Certified District show your neighborhood’s commitment to being wildfire prepared, insurance companies use that information when renewing and reassessing homeowners insurance.

Rees has been trying to apply for a certification for Al Tahoe for over a year.

“We are showing the community how to be fire resistant, not just telling them,” she said. “We need to play active roles in our own defensible space.”

Rees has been advocating for fire mitigation and safety for years, not just in Tahoe but also in Shasta, Plumas and Lassen counties.

Rees learned from other Firewise communities and wanted to implement similar models in Tahoe.

“It is an ongoing, long term commitment to the community,” Rees said and added that she reached out to SLTFR and they got on board right away.

“We all need to work together to consider risk on our property,” Rees said.

She also said that she could not have done this on her own and is super grateful for the community and the firefighters who came out to help with cleaning up the property which she says is another great example of being a Firewise community.

They removed three dump truck loads full of debris from around the home.

“The crews were absolutely amazing,” she said. Rees said that since these large fires began, “Awareness [for becoming Firewise] in the community went sky high.”

Sallie Ross, SLTFR public information officer, said that the firefighters were thrilled to help back the efforts for the community to become Firewise certified. She also said that they have heard that more areas are interested in becoming certified.

“They [the community] do the work, but we will help,” she said.

“It’s a great program,” said SLTFR Chief Clive Savacool. “Al Tahoe took the initiative to implement the Firewise program.”

He said the program is important because it prepares properties to defend against wildfire and keeps wildfire risk at a minimum. He also said the program educates the community and shows how residents can personally be prepared.

It is especially important to be prepared when hundreds of fires are blazing throughout the state. Savacool said that they’ve had a crew at the Loyalton Fire for a week and then were reassigned to Santa Clara.

“Everyone in the region is pitching in,” Savacool said and added that while they are staffed as usual, they are ‘tapped out’ for any extra staff help. He said that fortunately in the basin we have agreements in the west slope if we needed to pull resources in.

For more information about Firewise USA Certified, visit

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