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.
A fire adapted community is one where the people have joined together to adequately prepare themselves and their homes for the occurrence of wildfire. They share the goal of mutual protection and creating a community that can survive wildfire with little or no assistance from firefighters. They perceive their community as vulnerable and constantly think about and discuss the threat of wildfire while individually and collectively taking action to mitigate the threat.
Residents of fire adapted communities:
• Acknowledge that their community is vulnerable to the destructive force of wildfire.
• Understand those landscape and structural characteristics that increase the probability of ignition.
• Understand the limitations of fire suppression efforts and accept responsibility for preparing their home through pre-fire activities.
• Understand the importance of a fuelbreak where firefighters, when available, can safely defend life and property.
• Are knowledgeable about how weather, topography and fuels influence wildfire behavior.
• Work with their neighbors and the local fire service to develop a community action plan that details high priority needs and projects (e.g., Community Wildfire Protection Plan).
• Routinely assess their house in terms of vulnerability to wildfire and take corrective action.
• Actively communicate about the wildfire threat and promote actions necessary to reduce the threat within the community.
• Share their knowledge and perspective with newcomers to the community.
• Understand that they share their level of wildfire risk with their neighbors (i.e., if one house is inadequately prepared, the risk to the whole neighborhood increases.)
• Know that mitigating the wildfire threat to their homes is not a one-time effort, but must be ongoing.
“Creating a Fire Adapted Community is an ongoing process that requires acceptance of a real wildfire threat and a collective determination to increase community survival by reducing that threat.” said Elwood Miller, Coordinator, Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Take that first step in becoming a fire adapted community today by talking to your local fire service, contacting Elwood Miller with the Nevada Network of Fire Adapted Communities at email@example.com or going to www.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.
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