The Tahoe Basin is a fire-prone environment, and the natural ecology has evolved to not only survive wildfire, but in many cases flourish because of it. Prior to European-American settlement, many of the populated areas in the Basin burned every 5 to 18 years. These fires were generally low intensity surface fires that rarely spreading into tree canopies.
Because of the damaging effects of wildfire on populated areas, a culture of fire suppression dominated North America for much of the 20th century. This resulted in a build-up of fuels in our forests which we see today. In conjunction with years of drought, and environmental imbalances onset by global climate change, wildland fires are becoming increasingly intense and destructive.
The leading source of this destruction is caused by embers. During wildfire, burning embers can be lofted into the sky and travel more than a mile from the front of a fire before landing while still burning. These embers have the ability to ignite plants, debris, and homes that they land on. Defensible space, building materials and design all play pivotal roles during these events. Managing fuel loads and hardening homes is imperative. Click here for an interactive guide detailing the ember threat during wildfire.
In an effort to reduce devastating wildfire from entering communities, control burns like the one pictured right in the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District are commonly utilized. These low-intensity fires assist in protecting neighborhoods by reducing hazardous fuel loads in adjacent wildlands. They also increase forest health in many cases, as the forests in the Tahoe Basin evolved with the omnipresence of wildfire. In conjunction with fuel reduction projects implemented on public lands, efforts also need to be taken on private property. There are myriad actions residents can take to help protect their homes and reduce their wildfire risk, click here for more information.
Today, wildfires are becoming increasingly difficult to manage as their size, intensities, and rates of spread have dramatically increased over the past two decades. The map below highlights some of the past fires that have occurred in and around the Tahoe Basin since 2000.What Can I Do To Reduce My Wildfire Risk?