More inspectors sought to help reduce wildfire threat at Tahoe
STATELINE – More inspectors would be available to help Lake Tahoe property owners increase defensible space around homes under a plan being considered by regulators to reduce the threat of major wildland fires at the Sierra lake.
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s governing board on Wednesday will consider an ordinance change that would expand the number of trained professionals authorized to conduct defensible space inspections.
The proposal is the latest in a string of efforts undertaken by TRPA to help streamline fire safety efforts after the 3,072-acre Angora wildfire in June destroyed 254 homes on the lake’s south shore.
The blaze, the biggest recorded wildland fire in the Lake Tahoe Basin, was caused by an untended campfire.
Under its current code, the bistate agency charged with protecting Tahoe’s environment requires a qualified forester to mark trees for removal during defensible space inspections.
Under the proposal, those who receive training approved by TRPA and fire agencies also would be allowed to mark trees for removal and conduct the inspections. They would work as fire agency designees.
“This change would make it possible for the fire agencies to get more staff on the ground conducting defensible space inspections,” said Mike Vollmer, TRPA vegetation program manager. “This is just one more tool to fast-track the process property owners should undertake to maximize fire safety.”
Last month, the agency’s board eased regulations for tree cutting on private property as part of the effort to reduce risks of major wildfires.
Board members agreed that trees 14 inches or less in diameter can be removed without a permit if the activity is designed to decrease fire danger. Previously, removal of any trees greater than 6 inches in diameter required a permit.
In October, a plan to station a quick-response firefighting helicopter at Lake Tahoe was endorsed by the board.
The TRPA emerged as a favorite target for those seeking to assign blame for the devastating June fire. Some Tahoe residents say the agency overstepped its original mission by adopting strict policies that include fining homeowners thousands of dollars for cutting down trees from their own properties and even putting limits on where residents can rake pine needles.
The TRPA’s executive director, John Singlaub, has said he was shocked by the public backlash. He said the agency’s board had made fire safety a priority, including allowing homeowners to increase defensible space around homes and reduce the threat of a catastrophic fire.