2018 Wildfire Outlook: Prepare Now! Wildfire Knows No Season

Contact:  U.S. Forest Service, Lisa Herron (530) 543-2815

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. –What began as a very dry winter in the Lake Tahoe Basin ended with Sierra snowpack approximately 85% of normal, thanks to heavy precipitation received during the month of March.  However, both the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) and the Reno National Weather Service (NWS) expect a warming trend to develop that will lead to drier than normal conditions by late spring.  As a result, the below average snowpack is expected to melt faster, grasses and other vegetation are expected to dry out earlier and wildland fire activity is likely to increase to above average by mid-summer.

“Although we received a great deal of precipitation during the month of March, we are on track for an above average potential for significant wildfire activity this summer.” said U.S. Forest Service Fire Management Officer, Steve Burns.  “It’s important to keep in mind that in the U.S., year-round fire seasons have become the new normal, which means for people living in fire-prone areas like the Tahoe Basin, wildfire preparedness is essential.”

Across the U.S., nearly nine out of 10 wildfires are human-caused with illegal and unattended campfires being the biggest source of human-caused wildfires.  In 2007, an illegal, abandoned campfire was the cause of the Angora Fire, which burned more than 250 homes, 231 acres of private property and 3,072 acres of National Forest land near South Lake Tahoe.  The public can help the Forest Service and other fire agencies prevent these human-caused ignitions by learning where and when campfires are allowed and making sure campfires are completely extinguished using the Soak, Stir and Feel method before leaving.  On National Forest land in the Tahoe Basin, campfires are only allowed in designated campgrounds and never on the beach, in Desolation Wilderness or in the general forest.  For more information about campfire safety, visit https://smokeybear.com/en/prevention-how-tos/campfire-safety and/or http://www.preventwildfireca.org/Campfires/.

The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT), which consists of the Forest Service and other state and local partners, has thinned and removed excess vegetation on more than 70,000 acres of National Forest and other lands around communities in the Tahoe Basin to reduce the threat of severe wildfire.  Forest thinning projects, also known as fuels reduction projects, are a top priority for the Forest Service and the TFFT and will continue to be implemented each year in the Tahoe Basin.  In order to complement Forest Service and TFFT fuels reduction projects, there are important steps residents and communities must take to improve defensible space and community wildfire preparedness at Lake Tahoe.

Springtime in the Sierra is the perfect time to complete defensible space clean up around homes, review evacuation plans, sign-up for reverse 911 with cities and/or counties, contact local fire districts to schedule free defensible space evaluations, learn about free chipping services and talk to neighbors about the importance of wildfire preparedness.

The time to prepare for the next wildland fire is now.  Permanent residents, second-home owners and vacation home owners/renters should familiarize themselves with and follow advice found at http://tahoe.livingwithfire.info/ and/or https://www.ready.gov/wildfires on how to prepare their homes and neighborhoods for the next wildfire.  Remember it’s not a matter of “if” the next wildfire will occur, it’s a matter of “when”.

Another step toward wildfire preparedness is to sign-up for the Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities (TNFAC) newsletter.  TNFAC provides community members with education, communication and advice; facilitates collaboration between communities and stakeholders; helps communities organize events and neighborhood-level vegetation removal projects and tracks community accomplishments.  For more information about the TNFAC program, contact Carlie Teague at 530-543-1501, ext. 114 or email [email protected].

For more information on the 2018 Wildland Fire Outlook visit, www.nifc.gov.

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Multiple Agencies Continue Tahoe Basin Prescribed Fire Operations

Weather permitting, the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT), which includes local, state and federal agencies, will continue prescribed fire operations this week around the Tahoe Basin.  The North Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Douglas fire protection districts, California State Parks, California Tahoe Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service will conduct prescribed fire operations in Sugar Pine Point and Burton Creek state parks on the West Shore, Kings Beach and Diamond Peak Ski Resort on the North Shore, Logan Shoals on the East Shore and on Kingsbury Grade, off Ski Run Boulevard and near the Golden Bear subdivision on the South Shore.  Smoke may be present.  A map with project locations and details is available for viewing at http://www.tahoefft.org.  To receive prescribed fire notifications, send an email to [email protected].

Whenever weather and conditions allow, prescribed fire operations are conducted by the TFFT to reduce overgrown vegetation, which decreases the severity of future wildland fires and protects communities.  After nearly a century of fire exclusion in the Sierra Nevada, prescribed fire operations also re-introduce fire back onto the landscape, which helps restore vital ecosystem functions and improve forest health and resiliency.

Each prescribed fire operation follows a specialized prescribed fire burn plan that considers temperature, humidity, wind, moisture of the vegetation, and conditions for the dispersal of smoke.  This information is used to decide when and where to burn.

The TFFT coordinates closely with local county and state air pollution control districts and monitors weather conditions carefully prior to prescribed fire ignitions.  They wait for favorable conditions that will carry smoke up and out of the basin.  Crews also conduct test burns before igniting larger areas, to verify how effectively fuels are consumed and how smoke will travel.  When conditions meet the prescription, state and local air pollution control districts issue a burn permit allowing operations to proceed.

Smoke from prescribed fire operations is normal and may continue for several days after an ignition depending on the project size and environmental conditions.  Keep in mind that prescribed fire smoke is generally less intense and of much shorter duration than smoke produced by a wildland fire.  Smoke sensitive individuals are encouraged to reduce their exposure by staying indoors if they are in a smoke affected area.

When prescribed fire operations are conducted, the TFFT posts road signs around areas affected by prescribed fire, sends email notifications and updates the local fire information line at 530-543-2816.  The TFFT gives as much advance notice as possible before burning, but some operations may be conducted on short notice.

For information about smoke management tips, visit https://www.airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=topics.smoke_events.

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Holiday Safety Tips

Here are some good reminders during the festive holidays to keep you, your family, home and beautiful environment we live in safe from accidental fire!  Thanks to North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District and your Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team for the following information:

The winter holidays are a time for celebration – and that means more cooking, decorating, entertaining and overall increased risk of fire. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), between 2011-2015, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 200 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year.  These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 16 injuries, and $14.8 million in direct property damage annually.

There are simple life-saving steps you can take to create a safe and happy holiday.

Preventing Christmas Tree Fires:

  • Selecting a tree for the holiday – When buying a live tree, look for one that is not shedding needles. If needles fall off or branches snap when bent, the tree is already too dry.
  • Keep trees watered. A mixture of lemon-lime soda and water will keep a tree moist longer.
  • Keep trees away from all heat sources including fire places, stoves and room/space heaters.
  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant”.
  • Secure the tree firmly in tree stand to keep it from toppling over.
  • When tree becomes dry, promptly discard it.

 Lights & Candles:

  • Please do not use candles on a Christmas tree.
  • Place candles where they will not be knocked down.
  • Keep candles away from curious pets and children’s reach.
  • Be extremely careful with candles that have leaves, flowers, pinecones or other decorative items cast into them. These items can become wicks and ignite the candle in a way that the candle is not designed.
  • Keep lights or candles away from anything that could easily catch fire (NFPA reports that half of home candles fires occurred when some form of combustible material was left or came too close to the candle).
  • Please do not leave holiday lights or candles unattended.
  • Inspect all lights and cords before using them. Discard all lights with cracked or broken wiring and never overload circuits.

Holiday Decorations:

  • Keep wrapping paper and ribbons away from heat sources. This includes candles, lights, fireplaces, stoves and heaters.
  • Wrapping paper and ribbon should be thrown away in trash containers, not fireplaces. Burning paper and ribbon could cause a chimney fire.
  • Put decorations high enough on the tree so your child or pet can’t reach them. Children can choke or cut themselves on ornaments or ornament hangers.
  • Holly and mistletoe are poisonous. Keep them away from children.
  • Use only nonflammable or flame-retardant decorations and place away from heat vents.
  • If you are using a metallic or artificial tree, make sure it is flame-retardant.

 

Watch What You Heat:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, roasting or boiling food, check it regularly and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
  • If you are using a turkey fryer, please follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and instructions, and remember that the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has chosen not to certify any turkey fryers with the UL mark because they consider them to be dangerous to use presenting numerous safety hazards to consumers.

Fireplace Safety:

  • Check and clean the fireplace and chimney every year.
  • Always put logs and newspapers on a grate inside fireplace and use a fireplace screen.
  • Please do not use gasoline, lighter fluid or kerosene to start a fire and make sure the fire you build “fits” your fireplace (use an appropriate amount of newspaper and logs).
  • Place completely cooled ashes in a metal container. Keep metal container outside away from the house in a safe place.

 

Give Holiday Gifts That Promote Fire Safety:

  • Smoke alarms. If a fire occurs, having a smoke alarm cuts the chance of dying by half.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors – helps detect carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas.
  • Flashlights for emergency lighting instead of candles, to avoid the risk of fire from an open flame.
  • Sturdy candleholders to prevent tip-over when candles are lit.
  • Sturdy fireplace screen, to keep embers out of the room.
  • Gift certificates for chimney cleaning can reduce oily creosote build-up in chimneys that can be easily ignited.
  • Portable fire extinguishers, with clear instructions on how to use them.
  • Oven mitts for handling cooking equipment.
  • House address numbers – our local ordinance requires 6” for residential and 12” for commercial structures.
  • Stocking stuffers. Download fire safety information – including home escape plans from NFPA’s website (www.nfpa.org).
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Fire Adapted Communities Emerge in Tahoe

Evan Osgood, the Fire Adapted Communities Program Coordinator with the Tahoe Resource Conservation District, provided this great article  – The Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities (Tahoe Network) continues to educate and empower Tahoe residents in its second year of operation. The omnipresence of wildfire in California and Nevada has led to a general awareness of wildfire risk, but knowledge of fire behavior is less widespread. Helping people understand embers – how they ignite materials which can lead to home destruction, and how to prevent such events, is a priority for the program.

Embers are the greatest catalyst to home ignition during wildfire. They can be lofted into the sky and travel miles from the front of a fire, igniting the plants, debris, and trees they land on. These fuel sources can spread fire to homes if not managed properly. Managing the defensible space on properties out to 100 feet is one way to reduce your risk from embers. Because many properties in Tahoe don’t typically extend 100 feet out from a house, talking to your neighbors about defensible space is imperative. The Tahoe Network seeks to connect neighbors and bring defensible space to the community level, creating neighborhood-wide defensible space and wildfire preparedness.

“Even with the best efforts of fire resources, numerous homes are lost within the wildland urban interface due to catastrophic wildfire,” said Michael Schwartz, North Tahoe Fire Protection District Fire Chief. “Having defensible space should be a priority for homeowners and renters for several reasons. Defensible space not only keeps your home safe from wildfire, but also your neighbor’s home safe.  Additionally, defensible space is significant for the protection of firefighters defending your home.”

Involved Tahoe residents are a key component to the success of the Tahoe Network. All residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin are encouraged to step up, become leaders, and help prepare their neighborhoods for wildfire. Neighborhood leaders work with community coordinators and fire district personnel, sharing information with neighbors about ember vulnerabilities and defensible space, hosting workshops, and celebrating the work being done. Empowering Tahoe residents to stand with confidence in the face of wildland fire is one of the fundamental outcomes of the program.

The Tahoe Network has a myriad of landscaping resources to help you incorporate defensible space into your property, as well as vetted lists of contractors who can do the work. Additionally, local fire protection districts provide free defensible space evaluations and chipping services. Please contact your local fire protection district or our community coordinator for more information.

The Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities program is a member of the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team, which aims to raise wildfire awareness and empower residents to take action to reduce their wildfire risk. For more information on Fire Adapted Communities and how you can help protect your home and community from wildfire, please contact our community coordinator at [email protected] or 530-543-1501 ext. 114.

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Lake Tahoe Basin Fall Prescribed Fire Program to Begin

The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT), which includes local, state and federal fire and land management agencies in the Lake Tahoe Basin, will begin their fall prescribed fire program in early October, weather permitting.

“The forests in the Lake Tahoe Basin and surrounding areas are dependent on frequent low-intensity fires that removes excess vegetation and helps keep our forests healthy,” said Acting Fire Management Officer, John Washington, with the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.  “Prescribed fire is an important tool used by fire and land managers that mimics these low-intensity, natural fires and helps lessen the chance of devastating wildland fires, which increases the safety of our communities.”

Each prescribed fire operation follows a specialized prescribed fire burn plan, which considers temperature, humidity, wind, moisture of the vegetation, and conditions for the dispersal of smoke.  This information is used to decide when and where to burn.

Smoke from prescribed fire operations is normal and may continue for several days after an ignition depending on the project size and environmental conditions.  Prescribed fire smoke is generally less intense and of much shorter duration than smoke produced by wildland fires.

Agencies coordinate closely with local county and state air pollution control districts and monitor weather conditions carefully prior to prescribed fire ignitions.  They wait for favorable conditions that will carry smoke up and out of the Basin.  Crews also conduct test burns before igniting a larger area, to verify how effectively materials are consumed and how smoke will travel.

Before prescribed fire operations are conducted, agencies post road signs around areas affected by prescribed fire, send email notifications and update the local fire information line at 530-543-2816.  The TFFT gives as much advance notice as possible before burning, but some operations may be conducted on short notice due to the small window of opportunity for conducting these operations.

Once prescribed fire operations begin, the TFFT Public Information Team sends out regular notices, which include a map with project locations and details, and can be found at www.tahoefft.org.  To receive prescribed fire notifications, send an email to [email protected].

Keep in mind that residential burning on private property in the Tahoe Basin is still suspended.  For information about private land fire restrictions in California, which are regulated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFIRE), visit http://www.calfire.ca.gov.  For information about private land fire restrictions in Nevada, which are regulated by North Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Douglas fire protection districts, visit http://www.tahoefire.org/ or http://www.nltfpd.net/.

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