Rules must be changed for fuels management |

Rules must be changed for fuels management

Kyle Magin

With Tahoe forests characterized as a “tinderbox,” Tahoe Basin fire chiefs pleaded Friday to the Blue Ribbon fire commission for relaxed rules on fuels management.

After hearing a day’s worth of reports, the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission stopped short of asking for a gubernatorial emergency declaration for the basin as was slated on the agenda. Sig Rogich, the Nevada co-chair of the bi-state committee, noted that there was not enough time to debate the merits of calling for an emergency declaration until the next meeting.

However, the need was stressed throughout the day at the Chateau in Incline Village.

Nevada State Forester Pete Anderson characterized the basin as a “tinderbox,” as he delivered a presentation about the health, or lack thereof of the basin’s forests.

“What we’re seeing is a problem right now. We can’t get biomass out of the forests in a sufficient manner,” Anderson said. “We have a forest-health crisis, and hand-crew work is excellent but very slow. We need better access to the forests to get the biomass out that is cleared for defensible space. We turned our back on forestry … if the forests aren’t thinned properly the basin is at a higher risk of fire.”

The seven fire chiefs in the basin submitted a letter for the commission to review that calls for several Tahoe Regional Planning Agency rules to be relaxed or abandoned. It contained nine points for better fuels management in the basin, including a repeal of any Tahoe Regional Planning Agency ordinance that conflicted with defensible space guidelines.

“I feel the majority of (the points) will be passed. I feel good about where we’re going with this,” said Incline Village’s Fire Chief Mike Brown.

In an interview last week, TRPA spokeswoman Julie Regan said that TRPA is willing to compromise with the basin fire chiefs.

“We’re open to changes as far as these recommendations are involved…We think that people who are already adhering to our ordinances can take that opportunity to create defensible space at the same time; the two should go hand-in-hand. We are certainly open to working with the commission to keep the area safe,” Regan said.

Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Agencies Proposal

The following points were submitted to the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission Friday as a draft proposal:

1) Removal of TRPA’s Code of Ordinance requiring approval prior to removing trees within 100 feet of a building or structure to allow homeowners to meet PRC 4291 with modifications.

2) Removal of the coverage increases that result when ingress/ egress roads are required for emergency use.

3) Acceptance of a five-foot noncombustible “moat.” Rock, gravel, brick or pervious concrete applied in this area shall not be considered a coverage increase.

4) Acceptance of the removal by homeowners of all flammable material, vegetation or other combustibles including pine needles and wood mulch around a building or structure to 30 feet.

5) Acceptance of 100 feet of defensible space around any structure regardless of ownership.

6) Acceptance of up to 300 feet of defensible space on sloped properties.

7) Acceptance of the removal of native shrubs and trees under the drip-line of any tree or below any deck or overhang.

8) Understanding that all enforcement of the building standards and defensible space requirements shall be the responsibility of the local fire agency.

9) Understanding that all BMPs required by the TRPA code that are in conflict with PRC 4921 must be repealed.

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