Fire Safe Council confronts challenges in the basin | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Fire Safe Council confronts challenges in the basin

Sue Abrams
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Martin Goldberg, Lake Valley Fire District fuels management specialist, and Jennifer Arrowsmith, Nevada Fire Safe Council Tahoe Basin coordinator, from left, accept a $1,000 check from Scott Johnson, a Mountain View Estates resident.
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In the spring of 1999, 120 concerned Nevadans attended Nevada’s first comprehensive fire conference. After two days of intense discussion the conference participants endorsed by resolution the establishment of a statewide fire safe council that would provide support throughout the state of Nevada to help make homes, neighborhoods and communities fire safe. The fire season that followed this conference was the state’s worst on record.

In the spring of 2000, Gov. Kenny Guinn called for a fire summit to be held in Reno. Again, those in attendance and the specific recommendations they developed supported the earlier resolution calling for the creation of a new organization. These two conferences, and the endorsements and resolutions adopted, resulted in the creation of the Nevada Fire Safe Council. The NFSC service boundaries surrounded the entire state of Nevada, including the Nevada portion of the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Following the development of the Nevada Fire Safe Council and more than 100 other fire safe councils throughout the state of California, the Lake Tahoe Regional Fire Chiefs Association agreed that a fire safe council was critical for the fire safety on the California side of the Lake Tahoe Basin. In the winter of 2003, the Tahoe Basin Fire Safe Council was created to complement the efforts of the Nevada Fire Safe Council. Although the name implies otherwise, the TBFSC served only the California portion of the Tahoe Basin. The Nevada Fire Safe Council and the Tahoe Basin Fire Safe Council worked diligently, but separately, to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires to lives, property and natural resources in their respective portions of the Tahoe Basin.

Within the past two years, local agencies, organizations, and the general public have focused extraordinary levels of attention on the effort to make Tahoe fire safe. With all the partners working together for a common cause, the local agencies and organizations requested that the two Safe Councils serving the Tahoe Basin join forces. The Nevada Fire Safe Council and the Tahoe Basin Fire Safe Council merged to create a more effective, higher profile council that serves the entire Tahoe Basin. This was accomplished through an expansion of the NFSC boundaries across the state line. The NFSC now serves the entire state of Nevada and the entire Tahoe Basin. The NFSC facilitated the expansion by inserting a regional level of governance that is specific to the Tahoe Basin. The regional branch is served by the Tahoe Basin Regional Coordinator.

This past October, Sue Abrams, owner of Abrams Realty and a property owner in Mountain View Estates, approached Martin Goldberg, fuels manager for Lake Valley Fire District, and Jennifer Arrowsmith, Tahoe Basin coordinator for the Nevada Fire Safe Council, with a proposal. Abrams proposed she would finance and organize the initial development of the Mountain View Estates chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council. Therefore, creating sufficient community participation and funding, providing the program was put on a fast track to reach the goal of treating the entire subdivision for defensible space within the next year. Normally, this fire prevention program takes an average of three years, without the guarantee of completion since it relies on grant funding.

The subdivision of Mountain View Estates is in front of Angora Ridge. Approximately 449 homes exist in the subdivision with an additional 87 privately undeveloped lots. Approximately 50 percent of these private lands are owned by absentee owners. This private property is surrounded by Angora Ridge. Back in the 1980s, USDA Forester Al Todd called for the entire Angora Ridge area to be treated to ensure forest health, protection of the ecosystem, and removal of excessive fire fuels. Angora Ridge is considered an extreme fire hazard to the region. Todd’s project failed due to astronomical operating costs, which resulted from impossible mandatory environmental guidelines that had been established by special interest political groups.

It is Abram’s contention that given the fire hazards encompassing Angora Ridge, the private parcels that haven’t established defensible space, and the federal and state parcels that are still not sufficiently treated, Mountain View Estates is guaranteed to be the next fire disaster if not treated and maintained. Abrams said that the right lightening strike with create a forest fire of such magnitude that most of the homes will explode as a result of the intensity of the created fire. Abrams is now taking her proposal to expedite the fire prevention program directly to her neighbors. To do this she asked Placer Title to help with parcel maps and printing the letter to all property owners in the subdivision. She also requested assistance from Tahoe Blue Prints for enlarged grid maps of the subdivision, and asked Signs of Tahoe to create a community sign to post outside the fire house on Boulder Mountain, The sign posted the three community meetings that were structured to explain the goals and objectives of the fire prevention program.

On Nov. 9 at the fourth community meeting, the Mountain View Estates chapter of the Nevada Fire Safe Council was formally established; legally it takes only two individuals to begin the program. Mountain View Estates began with more than 100 participants. To participate, a minimum $10 fee is charged per parcel, which provides membership for a period of two years The three goals of the organization are to obtain participation from the approximately 550 private owners, raise the funds necessary to treat the entire subdivision starting in the spring 2006, and completing the job by winter 2207. A seven-member leadership team is currently being filled along with four specific committees, and 18 section leaders with two co-leaders necessary to facilitate the program. Volunteers are needed and anyone interested can contact Sue Abrams at (530) 544-7723.

There are eight subdivisions on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe that have formed fire safe chapters. Mountain View Estates is one of four chapters on the California side. Lake Valley Fire District will be inspecting each lot to address all issues of fire safety. Each inspection will examine existing trees shrubs, underbrush, chimneys wood piles, generators and fuels and shake roofs. A trained individual from the Lake Valley Fire District and a licensed forester will meet with every owner to recommend what will be needed to ensure defensible space. Anyone interested in what the results of the program will produce should drive through the subdivision of Hidden Woods on the Nevada side because this is an example of what Mountain View Estates will soon look like.

Abrams said that this program will only succeed if everyone works together. She and several neighbors already have defensible space around their home, but they realize that this is not enough because the other existing hazards beyond their properties are too great. It is understood by everyone who is on board that total participation is critical and that money needs to be raised to get the job done before it is too late. Scott Johnson, a property owner from the subdivision, fully understands the existing hazards since his properties back up to federal lands. To help ensure the success of this endeavor he has generously donated $1,000 to initiate the needed funding that will be raised over the next year.

The real success of this endeavor will be when all of Mountain View Estates has defensible space and all their tools and expertise have been transferred to the next subdivision willing to help themselves. At every meeting everyone agreed that their success will be the beginning for the South Shore. Mountain View Estates will help themselves, their community and the lake.

Mountain View Estates chapter is accepting all donations, which are tax deductible. All those interested are asked to mail in donations made out to Nevada Fire Safe Council, M.V.E.C., C/O Sue Abrams, P.O. Box 8169, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158 or Nevada Safe Fire Council, P.O. Box 17517, South Lake Tahoe, CA 96151.


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