North Lake Tahoe Fire officials analyze available resources
Special to the Tribune
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — As fire agencies prepare for the potential of another significant fire season, officials are assuring residents that there are enough resources available, especially water.
Chief Ryan Sommers of the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District took an in-depth look at the resources and infrastructure around Incline Village/Crystal Bay when it comes to a catastrophic event such as a wildland fire.
According to NLTFPD’s website, the identified goals and objectives as outlined in Incline Village/Crystal Bay’s strategic plan will guide the community into a more prepared future, however, it is important to acknowledge there will be unforeseeable issues that will arise and impact how the district operates and provides service to the community.
This plan states that “These issues will offer both challenge and opportunity to our Board of Directors, Fire District administrators, and personnel, who will need to review, assess, and work together to identify options and find solutions for problems faced during the Caldor Fire.”
One of the unforeseeable issues that Sommers addressed include how much traffic can Tahoe highways take and still allow people to get out in a safe, efficient manner. In recent events, the Caldor Fire and the evacuation of South Lake Tahoe offered insight to the NLTFPD.
“The strategic plan in place with collaborations between Nevada Department of Transportation, CalTrans, Washoe County Emergency Manager, and a third-party resource are actively working together to produce zoning plans to be released hopefully no later than mid-summer,” Sommers said.
Looking ahead to the water project recently discussed in local online forums, and an opinion piece in last week’s Tribune, asked the question of if Incline Village/Crystal Bay would be left high and dry with not enough water during a catastrophic wildfire.
To understand the resources available it is important to also understand there are a variety of fire engines that are used, depending on the situation.
“While it is true that Type I Engines pump 1,500 gallons per minute, these are used to fight structure fires and are intended to be hooked up to fire hydrants,” Sommers said. “The engine cannot be used to move the wheels because it is being used to pump the water. In turn, this puts the equipment and the crews in danger when used in wildland fire.”
Understanding the use of each of the water engines is a vital step when assessing what resources are available when making a wildfire plan for the Incline Village/Crystal Bay community. Type I Engines are used in situations that a crew member could safely post at the top of the engine where the nozzle is to fight structure fires while the Type III engine is used in more dynamic situations like wildland fires.
“The use of Type I Engines in wildland fire is unrealistic,” Sommers said. “Type 3 engines allow the crews to stay dynamic, they need to stay mobile. They fill up the tank and go do their jobs.”
The company Insurance Services Office, better known as ISO, provides ratings for fire departments and the communities that they serve. Over the history of the NLTFPD, there has been progress from an ISO of five in 1975 to the present-day ISO of One.
“In [an] evaluation from the ISO, agents come in and look at a variety of details within the department as a whole,” Sommers said. “Factors such as the placement of the fire stations, the equipment housed within the fire stations, the equipment on the engines, the amount of hose, what kind of nozzles we use, what the response level is to specific stations, how many engines respond to a structure fire or motor vehicle accident, how many chief officers are in the district, and most importantly, how we respond.”
The hot topic since the Caldor Fire has been focused on a limited resource and access to that resource — water.
“One of the major components is what water is available to a community in a catastrophic event, wildland fire for instance,” Sommers said. “In working with Incline Village General Improvement District, we were off the charts when it came to the amount of water needed for this community. That is precisely what pushed us from an ISO 3 to an ISO 1. Our equipment hadn’t changed since our last audit, no new fire stations had been built, and the staffing level has remained static. IVGID’s improvement to the water infrastructure is really what gave us enough points to become an ISO 1 rated community.”
Community members inquiring about the Crystal Bay water pump can rest assured that the resource is a very realistic option if a wildfire were to bear down on the North Shore.
“The use of the Crystal Bay water pump is absolutely viable,” Sommers said. “After conferring with IVGID, it would not take much for the pump to be usable. We can get that pump up and running between IVGID and NLTFPD.”
Sommers also noted that the NLTFPD has millions of gallons in storage for water above the Incline Village/Crystal Bay area. Another backup is utilizing water from Placer County.
In unfortunate scenarios around the United States, it has become abundantly clear that regardless of the level of preparation, sometimes Mother Nature has other plans. Sommers echoes the Al Tahoe Firewise Community in that “you’re only as safe as your neighbors.”
NLTFPD is ready and willing to partner with community members to increase the number of Firewise communities on the North Shore.
Sommers concluded with reminders to prepare defensible space around your home and encourage neighboring lots to do the same, have your family’s evacuation plan dialed in, know what you’re going to grab and where you’re going to meet, and most importantly listen to the local authorities on when to evacuate.
View full NLTFPD strategic plan at https://nltfpd.org/strategic-plan
View full Emergency Preparedness Guide visit https://nltfpd.org/preparedness
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