More work needed to reduce fire threat |

More work needed to reduce fire threat

Adam Jensen

Adam Jensen / Tahoe Daily TribuneSierra Fire Protection District Defensible Space Inspector John Schuler uses a model to demonstrate effective defensible space during a Lake Tahoe Basin Wildfire Summit at Harveys Resort Casino on Friday.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Great strides have been taken to reduce the threat wildfire poses to the Lake Tahoe Basin since 2007’s Angora fire, but more work is needed, according to speakers at the Lake Tahoe Basin Wildfire Summit on Friday.

The summit – held at Harveys Resort Casino – was the culmination of the first ever Lake Tahoe Basin Wildfire Awareness week and featured discussions on wildfire-related topics ranging from homeowners insurance to fuel reduction projects.

More than 75 people attended. Many of the attendees are associated with basin agencies, but the summit also attracted several interested homeowners.

About 8,600 defensible space inspections and nearly 3,000 curbside chipping requests have been fulfilled in the basin since the summer of 2007 through the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, said Norm Szczurek, Fuels Management Division Chief with the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.

Funding for projects to reduce the build up of forest fuel in the basin has become more reliable in the past three years and has increased the number of projects on the ground, but sources like the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act won’t last forever, Szczurek said.

“Funding is the number one challenge,” Szczurek added.

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Even after initial projects around the basin are complete, necessary maintenance will make reducing the risk of wildfire in the basin via fuel reduction a never-ending process, said Kit Bailey, U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Fire Chief.

“We still have got a long ways to go,” Bailey said.

Some of the most insightful moments during the summit stemmed from a panel discussion by three people affected by the Angora fire.

Two panelists, Leona Allen and Paula Lambdin, lost their homes during the fire. Panelist Warren Berg’s home barely escaped the blaze.

Lambdin expressed frustration at being able to do nothing regarding the knee-deep pine needles on the lot next door, even though she implemented defensible space measures to reduce the risk of wildfire around her home.

Getting second homeowners to understand the threat wildfire poses to the basin and implement defensible space is an ongoing issue, said South Shore CalFire Division Chief Mary Huggins during a separate presentation. The agency is increasing enforcement measures this summer, Huggins said.

Because of the Angora fire, most people on the South Shore take fire prevention personally, Huggins added.

Despite the loss of her home, Lambdin wholeheartedly encouraged people to implement defensible space in accordance with state and local regulations.

Keeping a smile on your face is also critical following such a disaster, Lambdin said.

No matter how difficult it seems, “you’ve got to maintain a sense of humor” in the face of such a loss, Lambdin said.

Leona Allen, whose father’s Mount Olympia Circle home was destroyed during the Angora fire, also encouraged people to take a detailed inventory of their possessions as evidence for insurance companies in the event of a catastrophe.

Providing a video with a narrative detailing the items was a piece of advice given by Lambdin.

Unlike many people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the fire, Allen’s father, Owen Evans, upped his insurance coverage every fire years. Being over insured has made all the difference avoiding the insurance-related headaches experienced by many, Allen said.

A lifelong South Shore resident and Lake Valley Fire Protection District spokeswoman, Allen said one positive has arisen from the fire despite all of the pain and frustration.

The fire has gone a long way to restore the sense of community which was slipping away in the years prior to the blaze, Allen said.

“This fire brought us together again,” Allen said.

Although there are still some neighbors who have yet to fully recover, the wounds from the fire are beginning to heal, Lambdin added.

“We’re well on our way to becoming a healthy, viable community again, so come out and visit,” Lambdin said.