Chief’s Corner: Wildfire season safety
Like the rest of the west, the Lake Tahoe Basin continues to experience longer wildfire seasons resulting from climate change. Many of us are still recovering from the devastating Caldor Fire that was fueled by drought, hot weather, and high winds.
The Caldor Fire, which started on Aug. 14 near Placerville, quickly crossed the Sierra Nevada and the Eldorado National Forest. While heroic firefighting, fuel reduction work, and favorable winds helped keep the fire out of Christmas Valley and Meyers, more than 1,000 structures and nearly 222,000 acres of forestland were destroyed.
A record-setting no precipitation for the month of January, followed by below normal precipitation through winter into spring have left us with moderate to extreme drought conditions. Continued dry conditions, with above-normal temperatures have left fuel moisture levels below normal, increasing the potential for wildfire activity again this season.
These conditions prompted the Lake Tahoe Basin fire chiefs to activate local fire restrictions and suspend the outdoor burning of solid fuels as of June 1. Only natural gas or propane outdoor fire pits and barbecues, and pellet grills/smokers are allowed. The ban remains in effect for the duration of the fire season.
Additionally, during red flag/critical fire weather conditions, all sources of open flames, including natural gas or propane outdoor fire pits and barbecues, and pellet grills/smokers are prohibited. Red flag watches and warnings of critical fire weather in the Tahoe Basin are issued by the National Weather Service, Reno. Fire restrictions on United States Forest Service land or California State Parks owned land may be different. Always check with the local jurisdiction and contact your local fire agency directly for further information.
Local fire agency personnel and the National Fire Protection Agency urge you to follow these 10 wildfire reduction safety tips.
Action items to improve your home’s survivability:
Remove leaves, pine needles, and other flammable material from the roof, gutters, and on and under the deck to help prevent embers from igniting your home.
Screen areas below decks and porches with 1/8” wire mesh to help prevent material from accumulating underneath.
Cover exterior attic and soffit vents with 1/8” wire mesh to help prevent sparks from entering your home.
Enclose eaves to help prevent ember entry.
Inspect shingles or roof tiles. REPLACE missing shingles or tiles. COVER ends of tiles with bird stops or cement to help prevent ember penetration during a wildfire.
Tips for landscaping around your home
Remove dead vegetation and other flammable materials, especially within the first 5 feet of the home.
Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. If it is brown, cut it down to help reduce fire intensity.
Prune tree limbs so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet above the ground to help reduce the chance of fire getting into the crowns of the trees.
Move construction material, trash, and wood piles at least 30 feet away from the home and other outbuildings.
Dispose of branches, weeds, leaves, pine needles, and grass clippings that you have cut to reduce fuel for fire.
Know the regulations. Be informed on how to protect your home and community and most importantly enjoy your Tahoe summer safely with family and friends.
Chad Stephen is interim fire chief of the Lake Valley Fire Protection District.
Editor’s note: “Chief’s Corner” is a regular feature from Lake Tahoe Basin fire chiefs, offering information, tips and education material on fire safety, emergency preparedness and other pertinent topics. If you have any questions, please contact your local fire district.
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