Basin-wide fire plan in works for Feinstein
INCLINE VILLAGE – North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District Division Chief Norb Szczurek has been logging a lot of miles lately, spreading the word about the fire plan the district has been using for several years.
Szczurek’s mission has been to call on the six fire districts and one department that keep watch in the basin to help them implement their own fuels management plan that will be modeled after NLTFPD.
Szczurek has also been meeting with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the Lake Tahoe Conservancy, Nevada Department of Forestry, California Department of Forestry and the United States Forest Service among others.
“My job is to tell them how we’ve done our fuels management program and to help them implement a plan for their own community,” Szczurek said. “Then, we will consolidate those plans into one basin-wide plan.”
That basin-wide plan will then be presented to Calif. Sen. Diane Feinstein, who will in-turn seek a portion of the Healthy Forest Initiative funding that President George W. Bush signed into law last December.
“At the meeting held in March with Senator Feinstein, she asked that the districts come up with a basin-wide fire plan that she could present to Congress in order to get a portion of the $750 million in funds,” Szczurek said. “She wants to be first in line and in effect use Lake Tahoe as a model for the rest of the country.”
Szczurek said that this plan would have to show a prioritized list for each of the basin’s districts and how the funds, that would come in annually, would be used.
NLTFPD was chosen as the lead agency because they have had a fire plan in place for several years.
“We had a head start on everyone else,” said Szczurek, who was given the assignment by Chief Jim Linardos.
That head start, according to Szczurek could mean that the district could be down on the funding list.
“Because of all the work we’ve already put in to fuels management, our priorities may put us at the tail-end of the needs list because no other district in the basin has a program in place and they’ll have to catch up,” Szczurek said.
Szczurek, who has lived in the Tahoe area since 1978, said that the response from the other district chiefs he’s met with has been favorable.
“Everyone wants to get this done and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from all the districts,” Szczurek said. “But we have to keep this whole thing on a fast track and want the districts to commit to saying that they’ll have the plan by July 1 and then be able to put things together by Aug. 1.”
While the districts are working feverishly to have something in place, Szczurek said that there will be some stumbling blocks, when it comes to consolidating all the plans into one.
“Since we’re dealing with districts in two different states, we have different laws in the two states that have to be considered,” Szczurek said.
Even though Szczurek has been on the road, meeting with the various entities for the past month and a half, technically, his job doesn’t exist.
“We haven’t received funding for my job yet, but it should come any day and we really couldn’t wait on it,” Szczurek said. “We had to get moving. So, we’re taking a chance on this succeeding.
“I envision this as a global-type plan, without boundaries, but with a common purpose,” Szczurek said. “Fire doesn’t care about boundaries and neither should we.”
Asked if he thinks all his hard work and long drives around the lake will pay off, the optimistic Szczurek said, “I feel this is going to happen. Senator Feinstein and Assemblyman Tim Leslie are really behind this happening and I believe will get the funding we’ll need to protect the basin.”