Basin is in heart of fire county |

Basin is in heart of fire county

Rick Chandler

In addition to the many features that make it attractive to residents and tourists, the Lake Tahoe Basin also has all the prime ingredients necessary to sustain a very unwanted guest – wildfire.

“The Lake Tahoe area is prime fire environment, especially when you throw people into the mix,” said Ronna Hubbard, a coordinator with The Sierra Front, a wildfire prevention coalition based in Carson City.

“You have all the prime ingredients here,” she said. “The weather, topography and fuel, such as living vegetation and, unfortunately, houses.”

It has been the Sierra Front’s mission since its inception six years ago to educate homeowners on living within this hazardous fire environment. The Living With Fire Program was outlined at the Sierra Front booth an Saturday at the Fire Fest and Home Expo at South Tahoe Middle School. Among the displays were strategies for homeowners to “fireproof” their homes and property.

“In the old days, the attitude among many homeowners was ‘It’s the fire department’s responsibility,’ ” Hubbard said. “But there is an increasing recognition that our ability to live more safely in a fire environment depends on pre-fire activities. There are many things people can do.”

This includes proper vegetation management around the home (known as defensible space), use of fire resistant building materials and appropriate subdivision design (including good access roads with turnaround areas).

Sierra Front is a coalition of local, state and federal firefighting agencies from western Nevada and eastern California formed to promote an effective response to wildfire. The University of Nevada, Reno, which initiated the Living With Fire Program, is also involved.

“One of the things we’re working on is to get standardized codes,” Hubbard said. “When you go from one county to another in Nevada, the codes are all different. We would like to see a uniform set of codes, which would make education more effective.”

How guarded should homeowners be when it comes to fire? Hubbard can tell you that an eight-foot flame burning in cheatgrass can travel 4 1/2 miles per hour, and consume 3,000 acres in an hour. And that same flame in a pine forest can consume 150 acres in the same amount of time.

Surprisingly, a large patch of bare ground around your property is not the best way to prevent against wildfire damage, because of soil erosion and other factors. One of the best preventative measures is a well-maintained lawn. Fire is not fond of lush greenery.

For more information on the Living With Fire Program, contact Ed Smith at the UNR Cooperative Extension, (775) 782-9960; or Hubbard at Sierra Front, (775) 882-9274.

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