Tahoe Resource Conservation District

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2015 Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Season Update

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Contact:  South Lake Tahoe Fire Chief, Jeff Meston (530) 542-6160                             

South Lake Tahoe, Calif. – Early in 2015, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), as well as our partners at the National Weather Service, predicted 2015 to be a significant year for wildland fires throughout the Western States.   A combination of a sustained period of drought, coupled with weather that is conducive to nearly perfect burning conditions, have challenged local firefighting resources.  Those predictions have rang very true as we continue to hear about new fires occurring almost daily all over the Western States.  This year will go down as one of the most hazardous years for wildland fire.  Locally, firefighters have responded to a variety of wildland fires within our region and thankfully have been able to mitigate them quickly and efficiently. Sadly, we recently lost a USFS firefighter who tragically lost his life battling an incident south of Echo Summit.
 
The California Fire & Rescue Mutual Aid System is the best in the world, and our agencies along with our partners in Nevada have deployed local resources to fight fires throughout California.  This year our local U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) obtained use of the “Super Scooper”, a superb firefighting plane to reinforce our ground firefighting resources, now based at the Lake Tahoe Airport.  Our number one goal is to prevent the ignition of wildfires, and to accomplish that, we need the public’s help.
 
We live and play in a forest. Where are you discarding your cigarette butts?  Are you parking on dry grass? Did you start a campfire in a prohibited location? Did you put it out completely? Are you burning your trash? Are you causing sparks while driving?  Over 90% of unintended wildfire is human caused in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
 
If you live in or own a home in the region, have you completed your defensible space? If not, why not?  Without defensible space, it is unreasonable to think that fire agencies can place a fire truck to defend your home during a wildland fire.  Look around your neighborhood, how many homes are there?  Is it easy or hard to gain access to your home?  Are your streets wide enough for a fire truck to access the neighborhood and for you and your neighbors to pass that engine to evacuate?  Firefighting resources are limited and there is not a home in existence worth a firefighter’s life. 
Help us to help you by following the following basic defensible space tenants.
 
  • Vegetation surrounding a building or structure is fuel for a fire. Even the building or structure is considered fuel. Research and experience have shown that fuels reduction around a building or structure increases the probability of it surviving a wildfire. Good defensible space allows firefighters to protect and save buildings or structures safely without facing unacceptable risk to their lives. Fuels reduction through vegetation management is the key to creating good defensible space.
  • Properties with greater fire hazards will require more clearing. Clearing requirements will be greater for those lands with steeper terrain, larger and denser fuels, fuels that are highly volatile, and in locations subject to frequent fires.
  • Creation of defensible space through vegetation management usually means reducing the amount of fuel around the building or structure, providing separation between fuels,and/or re shaping retained fuels by trimming.
  • In all cases, fuels reduction means arranging the tree, shrubs and other fuel sources in a way that makes it difficult for fire to transfer from one fuel source to another. It does not mean cutting down all trees and shrubs, or creating a bare ring of earth across the property.
  • A homeowner’s defensible space clearing is limited to 100 feet away from his or her building or structure or to the property line, whichever is less, and limited to their land.
  • Homeowners who complete fuel reduction activities that remove or dispose of vegetation are require to comply with all federal, state or local environmental protection laws and obtain permits when necessary.
 
For more information on what homeowners can do to create defensible space around their home and property, visit http://livingwithfire.info/tahoe.          
 
 
About the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team
The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT) consists of representatives of Tahoe Basin fire agencies, Cal Fire, Nevada Division of Forestry and related state agencies, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the USDA Forest Service, conservation districts from both states, the California Tahoe Conservancy and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. Our Mission is to protect lives, property and the environment within the Lake Tahoe Basin from wildfire by implementing prioritized fuels reduction projects and educating the public on becoming a Fire Adapted Community.
 
For more information, visit www.tahoefft.org

Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team Reminds People to “Can Your Ashes”

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South Lake Tahoe, Calif.  – Lake Tahoe’s fire departments are reminding people that it’s dangerous to dispose of fireplace, wood stove or barbecue ashes in improper containers and locations. Embers, often concealed in what appears to be cold ashes, can remain hot enough to kindle a fire for several days. It is recommended to wait at least 96 hours and/or 4 days before disposing ashes.

To safely dispose of ashes:

  • Put discarded ashes in a heavy metal container, douse with water, and cover with fitted metal lid.
  • Store the container outside and away from structures, decks, fences, wood piles and other combustible materials.
  • Never use a vacuum cleaner to pick up ashes.
  • Never put ashes in bags or boxes.
  • Contact your local trash collection agency for their disposal recommendations after ashes have cooled and embers are out.

 As the fall and winter heating season approaches, please remember to regularly inspect and clean your chimney. Soot and creosote are combustible materials that accumulate inside chimneys and create a dangerous fire hazard unless they are removed. Just recently, a lakeside home in Zephyr Cove was destroyed by an escaped fire due to a malfunctioning wood burning appliance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHJOMG51tp0.

 If you have an older wood stove or fireplace in your home, please consider upgrading it with a more efficient heat source that can also help improve Lake Tahoe’s air and water quality.

Newer wood stoves that are EPA compliant have catalytic converters that pull many particulates out of the smoke before it is emitted. Similarly, gas stoves emit significantly less pollutants. Replacing inefficient wood heaters saves heat while protecting the Lake. Rebates are also available to help people replace their older, inefficient wood heaters and fireplaces. More information is available at http://www.trpa.org/permitting/homeowner-info/wood-stoves/.

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Approved ash disposal can (photo courtesy of Meeks Lumber)

 

Other general fire safety tips for the home heating season:

  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area, and inside each bedroom. Test alarms at least once a month.
  • Keep anything that can burn at least three feet from space heaters and other heat sources.
  • Never leave the kitchen when something is cooking.
  • Keep candles and matches out of the reach of children.
  • Extinguish all fires, even candles, when you leave the room or go to sleep.
  • Remember to call 911 for all fires, no matter how small.

 People who properly can their ashes and follow these other fire safety tips can save lives and property. Please contact your local fire agency for more information.

Tahoe RCD in partnership with STPUD is hosting FREE Water Conservation Workshops

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Don’t miss out on these Water Conservation Workshops being held on the North and South shores of Lake Tahoe! These workshops are great for professionals as well as residents, and discuss a variety of topics dealing with ways to conserve water in the current drought situation we are experiencing. 

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8th Annual Conservation Landscape Tour

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Get inspired to transform your home’s landscape into a mountain oasis! This year’s theme is discovering the many approaches to Tahoe Friendly Landscaping. The tour will begin at the Lake Tahoe Community College Demonstration Garden where participants can pick up passports and a map of the landscape tour while enjoying refreshments and interacting with a BMP maintenance demonstration. While on the tour you will have the pleasure of viewing numerous houses from our local community that are shining examples of sustainable landscaping. Each of the houses will be hosted by a local agency acting as your informational resource in regards to these landscapes. Topics will include attracting pollinators to your garden, integrated pest management, sustainable turf care, habitat gardening, erosion control, defensible space, and gardening with native and climate appropriate plants. We would like to thank Keep Tahoe Blue, South Tahoe Public Utility District, Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Academy, City of South Lake Tahoe, and Master Gardeners of El Dorado County for coming together to make this year’s conservation landscape tour one the community will not forget.

 Time: 4:30pm – 7:30pm

Check –in Begins at 4:15

This event is free to attend, RSVP is requested

Contact: Sarah Bauwens at sbauwens@tahoercd.org or 530-543-1501 ext.126

 

Stewardship Programs Provide Opportunity to Improve Defensible Space

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South Lake Tahoe, Calif. – The fourth consecutive year of drought in California and Nevada emphasizes the need for communities to become fire adapted. The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT) implements forest thinning, prescribed fire and defensible space programs to reduce wildfire risk, but they need the public’s help to create Fire Adapted Communities at Lake Tahoe. A Fire Adapted Community is a community located in a fire-prone area that requires little assistance from firefighters during a wildfire. Residents of these communities understand the responsibility of living in a high fire-hazard area and possess the knowledge and skills to prepare their homes and property to survive wildfire.

This spring, federal, state and local agency personnel will conduct defensible space inspections and provide recommendations on ways to create defensible space around homes to comply with defensible space regulations. While these regulations require residents to create defensible space on their own property, the defensible space zone often extends beyond the property line. The Forest Service Homeowner Defensible Space and Fuels Reduction Stewardship programs allow homeowners adjacent to National Forest System (NFS) lands the opportunity to work with the Forest Service to extend defensible space onto NFS lands in order to meet recommended clearance standards.

Homeowners may conduct low-impact defensible space clean up on any portion of NFS lands within 100 feet of their home. Specific guidelines are included in the Homeowner Defensible Space Agreement issued by the Forest Service or the local fire protection district responsible for conducting defensible space inspections. Defensible space treatments include removing pine needles and other forest debris, pruning trees and removing brush. Homeowners are required to follow Forest Service standards and guidelines to protect soil, prevent erosion and protect forest resources while working on NFS lands. The removal of standing trees is not allowed under this agreement. In most cases, the work is light and manageable, as Forest Service personnel already engage in large-scale fuels reduction on NFS lands. The free agreement can be implemented annually without being reissued.

When removal of trees or clearance beyond 100 feet is recommended, homeowners can clean up excessive fuels under a Fuels Reduction Stewardship permit. The Fuels Reduction Stewardship permit authorizes homeowners to remove excessive fuels beyond 100 feet of their home and with prior approval from the Forest Service, may allow homeowners to remove standing trees at the homeowner’s expense. If tree removal is recommended, Forest Service personnel will mark trees that need to be removed

Prior to authorizing the work, a Forest Service employee will assess the adjoining NFS land, determine if homeowners qualify for the Fuels Reduction Stewardship Program, determine the scope of work, and answer any questions. A free permit will be issued authorizing the work to occur within a specified period. The permit expires at the end of the calendar year in which it was issued.

The benefits of implementing defensible space treatments on or adjacent to, private property include reducing the speed and intensity of a wildfire, improving forest health and providing increased protection to neighborhoods and communities. With drought comes increased fire risk, so it is crucial for communities to implement these strategies to better prevent the spread of a devastating wildfire.

For more information, or to set up a free consultation with Forest Service personnel, interested residents can call the Stewardship Program Hotline at 530-543-2759. Forest Service staff check messages regularly throughout the fire season and generally return calls within 48 hours. Please provide a detailed message including name, return phone number and address.