Fire-related items on agenda for South Lake Tahoe City Council |

Fire-related items on agenda for South Lake Tahoe City Council

This map shows very high fire severity zones in South Lake Tahoe.
City of South Lake Tahoe
VIEW THE AGENDA Click here to view the agenda for the Aug. 20 City Council meeting.

City Council is set to consider a trio of fire-related items at its meeting today.

On the agenda for the evening meeting is a report on the city’s vegetation management policies and a proposed ordinance to designate “very high fire severity zones.”

Council also will consider a request for proposals for improvements to the city’s emergency communications system.

Jurisdictions throughout the state are revisiting and, in some cases, creating vegetation management policies following back-to-back years in which record-setting wildfires scorched expansive swaths of California.

El Dorado County is one of those jurisdictions in the process of creating a vegetation management program.

Earlier this year the county adopted a defensible space ordinance that requires the treatment of improved lots if they are within 100 feet of structures and near roadways. It also implements a “good neighbor” policy on improved and unimproved lots throughout the county.

In the city of South Lake Tahoe, elimination of a full-time fire marshal position in 2011 pushed the city to a complaint-based system for defensible space inspections and enforcement.

In a memo, City Manager Frank Rush Jr. said he is considering adding a dedicated position that would focus on wildfire preparedness issues, including vegetation management initiatives, inspections and enforcement.

Rush said he is also considering moving the city’s fire inspector position from the development services department to the fire department and incorporating wildfire preparedness duties into the position.

Re-establishing the fire marshal position is another consideration on the table, Rush said.

Currently, the city’s ordinance allows the fire chief or his/her designee to declare a public nuisance when growth on a property poses a fire hazard, according to city code. That grants the city the ability to remove the vegetation. The code also allows the city to cite the party responsible for maintaining the property.

State regulations, as a staff report notes, set more specific requirements for parcels in what are known as “very high fire severity zones.” Property owners in those zones are required to:

  • Maintain 100 feet of defensible space (or to the property line)
  • Remove portion of tree within 10 feet of a chimney
  • Maintain vegetation adjacent to or overhanging building free of dead/dying wood
  • Maintain roof free of leaves, needles, etc.

While city staff say those provisions have been enforced in the past, an oversight prevented the city from actually designating very high fire severity zones identified by the state.

Council has a chance to correct that oversight today by adopting an ordinance designating those zones, which encompass most of the city.

City Council also will formally review a draft request for proposals for comprehensive emergency communications system improvements.

A memo to City Council states: “ The current public safety radio system utilized by South Lake Tahoe Fire & Rescue, the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, and the Public Works Department is old, antiquated, and failing the needs of the public and the agencies that use it. … The need for comprehensive improvements is overdue, and the eventual improvements will enhance emergency response, promote the safety of public safety employees, and promote greater operational efficiencies.”

The total cost is expected to range between $4 and $6 million, which would likely represent the largest city expenditure for the foreseeable future, according to a memo.

If council signs off on the request for proposals that could put the city on a schedule to review proposals in November, with a recommended contract coming before council in late 2019 or early 2020.

City Council is scheduled to meet at 5:30 p.m. today in council chambers at the Lake Tahoe Airport, 1901 Lisa Maloff Way.

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