Wildfire Community Preparedness Day: It pays to rake

Ashleigh Goodwin
Special to the Tribune
South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue personnel take a quick break while battling the Caldor Fire last summer.
Provided/Kim George/SLTFR

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Camp, Dixie, Caldor, Tamarack: all names that struck fear in the hearts of those who lived near those wildfires in the heavily forested areas of California.

As the world watched in horror, fire crews traveled great distances to assist; and many locals were displaced when the Caldor Fire scarred South Lake Tahoe and devastated residents in El Dorado County.

Saturday is Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, a day for communities and neighbors to band together to help protect each other from the dangers of wildfire.

Montgomery Estates, Golden Bear, and Al Tahoe are a few names of the local hero communities banding together to fight potential fire with preparedness. Over the last three years, nine communities at Lake Tahoe and surrounding areas have become recognized as “Firewise” communities.

According to the website, Firewise USA, the wildfire recognition program, provides a collaborative framework to help neighbors in a geographic area get organized, find direction, and take action to increase the ignition resistance of their homes and community. This program also works to reduce wildfire risks at the local level. Any community that meets a set of voluntary criteria on an annual basis and retains an ‘In Good Standing Status’ is able to identify itself as being a Firewise community.

Not only do these neighbors work as one to create defensible space, they also utilize wildfire preparedness resources from the National Fire Prevention Association to educate locals and visitors alike.

With the beginning of fire season underway, areas traditionally prone to wildfire are proactively taking measures to keep local communities safe.

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day encourages unity in communities across the United States and Canada to prepare against wildfire.

“The goal is for defensible space on every parcel and community awareness of our collective wildfire risks, plus preparation and practice of emergency procedures.” — Montgomery Estates Firewise Community Leader Jesse Garner

“The goal is for defensible space on every parcel and community awareness of our collective wildfire risks, plus preparation and practice of emergency procedures,” said Montgomery Estates Firewise Community Leader Jesse Garner.

When asked about the level of difficulty of the process of becoming a Firewise community, Garner said, “[there is] none, [there are] four simple steps … You can never be fully prepared but you can do a lot. Firewise communities are already doing the defensible space work.”

With the four steps Garner mentioned, a community can become a recognized Firewise community. The four steps are:

— Define boundaries of the community’s area.

— Define the fire risks that exist within your community’s area.

— Define short-term, mid-term and long-term goals for your community.

— Create and execute an outreach plan to educate new members of your community.

Preparing for potential fires comes with a reward in insurance discounts by way of wildfire mitigation credits. Wildfire mitigation actions are proactive measures that are taken on a parcel to decrease the chance of wildfire.

According to Garner, by becoming a recognized Firewise community, individuals who reside there could save over $100 per month in homeowners insurance discounts. To maintain proper recognition, Firewise communities report back annually to the NFPA. The requirement for each community is one hour of defensible space per parcel per year.

Dianne Rees, leader of the Al Tahoe Firewise community has fresh in her mind the process that the community completed in March 2021, will gladly provide her assistance to any communities in need of guidance through the process.

Creating defensible space in Al Tahoe.

According to the Al Tahoe community publication, there are simple things you can do in an afternoon or over the weekend that research shows will help your home survive a wildfire.

— Rake and remove pine needles and dry leaves up to a 30-foot distance around the home.

— Sweep porches and decks. Rake under decks, porches, sheds, and play structures.

— Move wood piles at least 30 feet away from structures.

— Dispose collected debris in appropriate trash receptacles or take them to disposal sites.

Rees’ community bulletin urges the local community to bear in mind “you are only as safe as your next door neighbors, so encourage your community members to join forces and ‘put safety first’ on Saturday, May 7.”

For details on becoming a Firewise community visit the North Tahoe Fire Protection District’s website:

For more information on the Al Tahoe Firewise community, contact Dianne Rees directly at

Contact South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue at 530-542-6160 regarding grant funding for green waste dumpsters for your community defensible space efforts.

Wildfire Safety Expo will be held next weekend in South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue vehicles at Station No. 2. | Mike Peron / Tahoe Daily Tribune

After a 2-year hiatus due to the pandemic, South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue will host its annual Wildfire Safety Expo next week at South Tahoe Middle School.

The free event features about a dozen agencies who will provide information on how to be more fire safe during this upcoming fire season, and food for sale from local vendors.

“Each year wildfire behavior progressively becomes more ferocious,” said SLTFR in a news release. Living in a mountain town means we need to be extra vigilant with our preparedness. Local agencies will be on site to hand out information and other cool schwag.”

Parents are encouraged to bring their kids.

May has historically been National Wildfire Awareness Month, but recently El Dorado County supervisors unanimously approved a proclamation naming May through October the Lake Tahoe Wildfire Awareness Campaign.

Other agencies participating include Lake Valley Fire, Tahoe Douglas Fire, Zephyr Chipping Crew, California Highway Patrol, Tahoe Resource Conservation District, Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, South Tahoe Public Utility District, Tahoe Paws, Firewise USA neighborhood leaders and food will be provided by The Baked Bear, Chicken in a Barrel and Tahoe Tessie’s Beach Bites.

The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 14.

South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue works on the Caldor Fire.
Provided/Sallie Ross/SLTFR
An example of preparing property to be fire ready.
An example of preparing property to be fire ready.

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