City OKs additional firefighting money and relays concern over troubled water agency
With city officials viewing the Angora fire as a massive wakeup call, the council agreed Tuesday to throw more firefighting tools to its fire unit as it deals with an 80 percent risk of another catastrophic fire.
These resources include a point-by-point re-evaluation of fire and building codes that could send contractors and homeowners scrambling for fire “ignition resistant” materials to build with and the city’s forester to reduce fire hazards with new regulations.
In addition, council members approved $75,000 once earmarked for promotional efforts to help fire officials buy radios. They also pledged to help the fire department buy a wildland fire engine that could carry more than twice as many gallons of water than the 200 its current engine capacity does.
Also, the council directed City Manager Dave Jinkens to continue trying to find a way to fund an upgrade to the Lukins Water system, which is for sale. The South Tahoe Public Utility District estimated the antiquated system that falls short of providing adequate fireflows would cost $18 million to fix. It now cranks out 300 gallons per minute and needs 1,000.
“If the fire would have been in the Lukins (district), it would have been catastrophic,” Jinkens said. As it was, a spot fire jumped Highway 89 into that neighborhood, prompting thousands of Tahoe Island and Tahoe Keys residents to evacuate. The main fire did not reach city limits.
Fire Chief Lorenzo Gigliotti also shared the need for the city to form a dozen Fire Safe Councils from Gardner Mountain to Heavenly Valley.
As reported in the Tahoe Daily Tribune in February, the council approved the state’s assessment that 18 communities in El Dorado County are considered “at risk” of a major wildland fire due to a heavy fuel load. The California Department of Forestry reclassifies the fire hazard map every three to five years, signaling local government building officials to adopt codes that coincide with the danger.
This could mean the end of wood shake roofs, a hazard former city Fire Chief Mike Chandler preached against for years.
Cutting more trees at airport
Even the controversial tree-cutting incident at the Lake Tahoe Airport appeared to take a backseat to fire fuel reduction. Following the promising lead of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Federal Aviation Administration, the City Council approved an amended plan to cut down 408 more trees to take obstructions out of the flight path.
Assistant City Manager Rick Angelocci told the council no comments on the plan were issued from the Sierra Club and League to Save Lake Tahoe.