Fire safety key to National Preparedness Month in South Lake Tahoe
As part of National Preparedness Month, state and federal officials are making an effort to remind residents to be ready in the event of an emergency. With wildfires currently threatening thousands of acres of California land and a fire season that could extend deep into October, it’s an increasing concern.
“It’s so important to be prepared. That way you’re not scrambling at the last minute,” Lisa Herron, U.S. Forest Service public affairs specialist for the Lake Tahoe Basin, said. “People that live here live in the forest. They need to be ready. It’s not a question of ‘if.’ It’s a question of ‘when.’”
In a press release from El Dorado County Health and Human Services Agency, public health and preparedness and response supervisor Michelle Patterson echoed the sentiment. “Being prepared is a shared responsibility in communities. Emergencies will happen, so it’s important for everyone to be proactive.”
Herron said preparation starts with prevention, reminding locals how important it is to make sure their yards and houses are as fire safe as possible. Removing brush, dead branches and flammable vegetation is key. Whenever possible, creating space between houses and the forest is also recommended.
“This is something people need to do on a regular basis,” Herron said. “Homes that have defensible space are much easier to defend.”
Local fire districts offer free consultations and inspections to recommend fire safety measures.
Herron also suggested fireproof roofing, and using fireproof tarps to cover wood stacked close to a home.
The other key to preparation that the Health and Human Services Agency and Forest Service encourage is to have an emergency plan in place should an evacuation be necessary. It’s a good idea to enroll in community notifications systems to receive alerts as fast as possible. The El Dorado Sheriffs offices, for example, offer reverse 911 phone alerts should an evacuation be necessary. Households should also make a plan in the event of an evacuation. Knowing how to communicate with one another and where to go is important. Depending on the location of a fire, one or more of Tahoe’s main highways will be the suggested evacuation route. Keep in mind that cell phone communications may be difficult during such an event.
Finally, it’s highly recommended that people have an emergency kit at the ready. Among suggested items, the kit should include water and nonperishable food, a first aid kit, basic tools, important documents, a flashlight, radio, a change of clothes and solid shoes.
Herron said that with a fire season that is increasingly year round, these preparations are especially important.
“We need to be prepared. You need to have an evacuation plan in place.”
Just in time for National Preparedness Month, South Lake Tahoe’s annual Firefest returns to the Lake Tahoe Airport Saturday, Sept. 26. The long-standing event is an opportunity for families to educate their kids about the importance of fire safety.
“It’s fun for the kids and fun for the family,” event organizer Jeanne Lear said. “You’re going to learn something and have lots of fun, too.”
Fire-fighting helicopters and aircraft are expected to be on site — pending containment schedules — along with a variety of other heavy equipment. The event will also include a variety of games and activities for kids.
The event will take place 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.