Safety 1st on the Fourth: Tahoe officials wary of illegal fireworks, promote mask wearing
Residents and visitors alike are being encouraged to act responsibly this Fourth of July weekend to help keep businesses open during the critical summer tourist season and to not start a raging wildfire with illegal fireworks.
With no massive fireworks blowouts this year at the lake, officials are concerned people might take matters, or lighters, into their own hands.
The combination of moderate drought conditions with dry vegetation and an ill-fated spark could be catastrophic.
Last week, Thursday, June 25, California Highway Patrol South Lake Tahoe busted a motorist for transporting a large quantity of illegal fireworks. The unlicensed driver was pulled over on California Route 88 for a domestic incident and a subsequent search of the trunk revealed dozens of boxes of fireworks.
The driver was cited and released while the vehicle and fireworks were confiscated.
Law enforcement will be on high alert this weekend.
“It is important for Douglas County residents to remember that not only are fireworks illegal and prohibited in Douglas County, for possession, sale or use, but they are dangerous as well,” East Fork Fire Marshal Amy Ray said. “Fireworks are very dangerous, especially to children, resulting in over 44% of the injuries reported in emergency rooms, nationally, on July 4.
“As we approach the holiday weekend, not only do residents need to be aware that fireworks are illegal and dangerous, but that they are a major cause of wildland fires,” she added. “Anyone using fireworks cannot only be charged criminally for their sale, possession, and use, they can also be criminally and civilly charged with any acts and costs associated with wildland fires, as a result of the use of fireworks or other incendiary devices.”
Douglas has had an ordinance on the books banning home fireworks since 1938.
U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Acting Supervisor Danelle Harrison says fire danger is high and asks anybody who sees any possible illegal activity to report it.
“With an expected increase in the numbers of visitors to our most popular recreation sites over the holiday weekend, I want to remind everyone that the fire danger remains high,” Harrison said. “Lighting fireworks is prohibited and enforcement is in high gear. If you witness the illegal use of fireworks or illegal campfire activity, please call 911.”
Campfires on forest land are only allowed within permanent metal fire rings or provided grills within developed recreation sites — paid campgrounds with an onsite host.
Fireworks of any kind are not allowed, even in fire rings, anywhere in the basin.
CHP is also expecting the Fourth to be “crazy” with traffic according to a Facebook post warning Lake Tahoe visitors that roads may be congested on Friday coming into town and extremely heavy on Sunday trying to leave.
“Leave really early or stay an extra day and enjoy the lake,” is CHP’s advice.
Lake communities join to promote mask wearing, social distancing
Communities all around the lake have joined forces with Take Care Tahoe to promote mask wearing and social distancing ahead of what is expected to be a busy holiday.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a jarring reminder Wednesday that COVID-19 still dominates our lives when he ordered all indoor operations at restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, family entertainment centers, movie theaters, zoos and museums and cardroom gambling businesses to close for the next few weeks.
Placer County, Truckee, South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, Douglas County, the El Dorado Community Foundation, Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau, Washoe County and the Tahoe Fund partnered with the Tahoe Care Tahoe stewardship campaign to develop lighthearted signage to encourage those visiting and living in Tahoe to wear a mask to help prevent further spread of the disease.
The idea was conceived of by Placer County supervisor Cindy Gustafson and was funded by the local governments listed above to try and keep open businesses during the crucial tourist season.
The campaign includes messages like “safer than the average bear,” “masking for a friend,” and “only spread good vibes.” These join billboards that are posted on all major arteries in route to Tahoe and other signs throughout the region in an effort to encourage responsible tourism.
Hundreds of lawn signs with friendly messages designed to encourage mask wearing will be distributed for free throughout the region.
Signs will be available for free for South Shore businesses at the Tahoe Chamber offices at 169 U.S. Highway 50, Stateline, Nev.
Take Care Tahoe is a collective group of more than 40 organizations that love Lake Tahoe and want to see more people connect its natural environment.
Boaters better get inspected early
The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency posted to social media Wednesday that over 60 cars were waiting for boat inspections in Meyers and that’s probably it for the day. That was at about 11:30 a.m. and the rest of the people were likely turned away.
In other words, boaters better get to inspection stations early because it’s first come-first served.
Inspection stations at Meyers, Truckee and Spooner Summit will serve boaters through the holiday weekend. The Alpine Meadows station will open later in July.
Here are guidelines and what to expect for boaters coming to the basin.
Face-coverings are required while out of the vehicle during watercraft inspections.
Maintain 6 feet of distance from inspection staff and others.
Try to arrive with minimal people in your vehicle.
Obey traffic laws in line at the stations.
Have patience and expect delays while visiting Tahoe.
Prepare to change plans while recreating and avoid crowded areas.
Prepare for boat inspections by arriving Clean, Drained, and Dry. Wet or hazardous boats must be decontaminated or quarantined, costing additional time or being barred from launching. Visit https://tahoeboatinspections.com/prepare-for-inspection/.
Enforcement is a critical part of the Lake Tahoe invasive species program and tampering with inspection seals is a major violation with heavy fines.
Thanks to the diligence of boaters and inspectors, no new aquatic invasive species have been detected in Lake Tahoe in the 12 years of the program’s history.
Kurt Hildebrand at The Record Courier contributed to this report
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