Chief’s Corner: Now is the time to prepare for wildfires at Lake Tahoe
The temperatures are warming up, the snow is quickly melting and the grasses are already drying up even with the heavy precipitation we received in March.
Both the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and the Reno National Weather Service (NWS) expect a warming trend to develop, which will lead to drier than normal conditions by end of June resulting in anticipated above average wildland fire activity by mid-summer in our region.
Wildfire preparedness is essential not just during the spring and summer months but year-round, especially in fire prone areas such as the Lake Tahoe Basin.
In the United States, nearly 9 out of 10 wildfires are human-caused by illegal and unattended campfires. The Angora fire in 2007 was caused by an illegal abandoned campfire, burning 3,072 acres of National Forest Land near South Lake Tahoe, 231 acres of private land and 254 homes.
The public can do its part to help reduce human-caused fires by learning where and when campfires are allowed, and making sure campfires are completely extinguished by using the soak/stir/feel method. On national forest land in the Tahoe Basin, campfires are only allowed in designated campgrounds and never on the beach, Desolation Wilderness or in the general forest. For more information on campfire safety visit smokeybear.com. For more information on what campgrounds campfires are allowed in the Tahoe Basin, please visit http://www.fs.usda.gov.
Homeowners can do their part by requesting a Defensible Space Evaluation (contact your local fire department) for their property which will help to identify the necessary steps that need to be taken to mitigate unnecessary fuels and reduce the wildfire threat. Curbside chipping services also are available, contact your local fire department to make a curbside chipping request.
Homeowners also can get involved and work together with neighbors to form a Fire Adapted Community. Contact the Tahoe Resource Conservation District at info@Taoercd.org or call 530-543-1501, ext. 114 to become a neighborhood leader. Neighborhood leaders work with community coordinators and fire district personnel educating neighbors on defensible space, hosting workshops and emergency preparedness. There are five components in making your neighborhood into a Fire Adapted Community:
Access – Infrastructure that allows emergency responders to reach your home.
Built Environment – structural features and materials that resist ignition.
Community Protection – Fuel breaks that help prevent fire from entering a neighborhood.
Defensible Space – vegetation around structures that is managed to reduce the chance of ignition.
Evacuation – planning and preparation to leave the threatened area. For more information on Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities, visit tahoelivingwithfire.info.
Last but certainly not least is to prepare in advance for an emergency. Emergency preparedness is another proactive process that when completed will help your family to act in a calm and effective manner. The three key steps are Make a Plan, Assemble a Kit and Stay Informed. For more information and to sign up for regional emergency alert notifications please visit readywashoe.com.
Ryan Sommers is chief of the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.