Wildfires have been raging through the United Sates in 2018, with California having its worst fire year in over 10 years and Nevada currently recovering from the largest single fire in its history. With increased temperatures, low humidity, and large fuel loads of dead shrubs, brush, and trees left behind from the 2012-2017 drought, it is crucial to prepare now, before the next wildfire occurs.
To help residents and visitors in the Lake Tahoe Basin prepare for wildfire, the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT) created the Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities (TNFAC). TNFAC is a multi-agency collaboration, led by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, that brings communities together with the resources they need to prepare for wildfire. In wildfire-prone areas, fire adapted communities reduce the potential for loss of human life and injury, minimize damage to homes and infrastructure, and reduce firefighting costs by taking the necessary steps to prepare properties and people before a wildfire occurs.
Five steps you can take today to prepare for wildfire:
Access: Ensure your home can be easily accessed by emergency first responders during a wildfire by making sure your address is clearly visible from the street and any gated driveways can be accessed during an emergency. Contact your local fire district to ask if emergency first responders could arrive at your home in a safe and timely manner.
Built Environment: Use fire-resistant or noncombustible materials on the exterior of your home, such as roofing, siding, decking, trim, windows, and fencing. Check for weak spots on your home where wildfire embers could ignite the structure and remove debris year-round from gutters, roofs, vents, and chimneys.
Community Protection: TFFT partners work together to provide community protection to neighborhoods by creating fuel breaks on public land, utilizing prescribed fire, and implementing strategies from the 2015 Lake Tahoe Basin Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Help the TFFT by reducing fuels for wildfire on your property and developing fire adapted communities in your neighborhood.
Defensible Space: Remove all vegetation within five feet of any structure year-round and contact your local fire district about getting a free defensible space evaluation to ensure you are properly managing your vegetation to reduce wildfire threat.
- Evacuation: Sign up to receive emergency notifications, prepare an evacuation supply kit, develop a family emergency plan, and practice preparing your home, family, and guests for an evacuation. Sign up to receive emergency notifications to your cell phone, home phone, and email through your county’s emergency notification system:
• El Dorado County: ready.edso.org
• Placer County: placer-alert.org
• Douglas County: douglascounty.onthealert.com
• Washoe County: washoecounty.us/em/RegionalAlerts.php
The Fire Adapted Communities Program relies heavily on self-identified leaders to help organize their neighborhoods. Neighborhood leaders work with fire district personnel and the TNFAC to help distribute educational materials, plan community work days and wildfire preparedness block parties, and help keep wildfire preparedness on the neighborhood’s agenda year-round. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about becoming a neighborhood leader, contact Carlie Teague at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-543-1501 ext. 114.
The Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities (TNFAC) participates in numerous community events around Lake Tahoe. Find out where TNFAC is next by visiting the events calendar at tahoe.livingwithfire.info/calendar/ or sign up for the monthly TNFAC e-newsletter.
For more information about upcoming events, how to prepare for wildfire, or to locate your local fire district, visit tahoe.livingwithfire.info.
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, University of California and Nevada Cooperative Extensions, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the U.S. 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 engaging the public in becoming a Fire Adapted Community. For more information, visit tahoetfft.org
Elk Point Country Club Homeowners pitch in to tackle aquatic invasive plant infestation on East Shore
Tahoe Resource Conservation District is pleased to announce the development of a partnership with Elk Point Marina Homeowners’ Association. In Fall of 2016, Tahoe RCD presented a project proposal to the Elk Point Country Club Homeowners’ Association Board to address the aquatic invasive plant infestation at Elk Point Marina on Tahoe’s East Shore. The homeowners were eager to learn how they could assist. To start, their Marina Manager attended Eyes on the Lake Training provided by the League to Save Lake Tahoe. In this training, their staff learned how to identify native and non-native aquatic invasive plant species in the marina and how to monitor their presence.
In 2017, Nevada Division of State Lands provided funding for Tahoe Resource Conservation District’s contracted divers to survey the Nevada shoreline from Stateline to Zephyr Point for the aquatic invasive plants Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) and curly-leaf pondweed (Potamogeton crispus). The divers found Eurasian watermilfoil occupying shoreline just to the north and south of the Marina. These detections demonstrated the need for a comprehensive control strategy for Elk Point Marina to eliminate this source of invasive plants from the East Shore.
In 2018, the Elk Point Country Club HOA made a commitment to eliminate invasive plants in the Marina by providing a 25% match to the funds that Nevada Division of State Lands provided for the project. In June, divers installed 65 bottom barriers in the marina that will remain in place for the duration of the summer. In July, the League to Save Lake Tahoe provided an Eyes on the Lake
training for homeowners and discussed best management practices to deter the growth of plants in the Marina once the project has reached completion. These practices include daily skimming of the Marina for any detected plant fragments, an annual Eyes on the Lake survey conducted by marina staff, and annual diver surveys. Tahoe RCD extends its sincere thanks to Nevada Division of State Lands, Elk Point Country Club Homeowners’ Association, and the League to Save Lake Tahoe for their collaboration on this project and their commitment to this partnership.
In partnership with El Dorado County and Texas Southern University, the Tahoe Resource Conservation District (Tahoe RCD) is monitoring stormwater runoff from Elk’s Club Drive to quantify the amount of fine sediment that comes from the road itself. Samples are taken of the runoff water and sent to the laboratory for source apportionment analysis. This lab test uses molecular markers to determine what portion of the fine sediment in the runoff comes from native soil (road shoulder erosion), traction abrasives (road sand), and asphalt (the road itself).
Currently, Elk’s Club Drive is in poor condition. It is covered in cracks and potholes. Not only is a degraded road bad for public safety, it is difficult to recover road sand and other material through road sweeping. Road sediment is a large portion of the fine sediment that ends up in Lake Tahoe, reducing its famed clarity. Early results show that up to 30% of this fine sediment includes asphalt (aggregate and binder). El Dorado County will be repaving Elk’s Club Drive this summer. After it is repaved, the Tahoe RCD will continue to monitor the runoff from the road for an additional year. If data shows that repaving roads contributes to improved water quality (less sediment), then improved pavement condition could be recognized as a water quality Best Management Practice (BMP). This would not only be identified for garnering credits for the Lake Tahoe TMDL Clarity Crediting Program (https://clarity.laketahoeinfo.org/), but also potentially opening up water quality improvement funds for road maintenance. New roads would be beneficial for public safety, vehicle maintenance costs, aesthetic appeal, driving pleasure, road maintenance and sweeping operations, long term durability, snow removal operations, stormwater quality, and lake clarity.
A washoff simulation was conducted in April to analyze runoff under controlled conditions. Over 5,000 gallons of water were released on Elk’s Club Drive and sampled at the terminal location. In a rainstorm, water runs off the road shoulder contributing native soil in runoff. In a snowstorm, there is likely to be high concentrations of road sand on the road and in runoff. The controlled simulation excluded native soil and road sand from the procedure, and focused runoff on the road surface only. Early results show peak turbidities (cloudiness) occurring with peak flows, indicating that sediment is being continually supplied by the road and suggesting that the road itself is eroding. The sediment in the samples will be subjected to the source apportionment analysis to confirm if this hypothesis is correct. Though the data is not yet in, the Tahoe RCD and El Dorado County are hopeful that, in the future, investments in new roads will be viewed as a win-win for the community and the lake.
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