Red Flag Warning/National Fire Danger Rating System: Fire prevention is everyone’s responsibility!

LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev. – Over the last several months there has been a great deal of wildland fire activity around the region.  Sadly, most fires are human-caused and completely preventable if the public would take the time to better understand conditions that are favorable for fire starts.  Fire prevention is the key to keeping our communities and forests safe from wildfire.

Although fire season is now considered a year-round event, wildfires mostly occur in the late summer and early fall when temperatures are still high, humidity is low and vegetation that can feed a wildfire is extremely dry.

These types of conditions prompted the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) to declare fire restrictions in effect for National Forest lands in the Tahoe Basin beginning in mid-August and continuing through November 15, 2018.  Fire restrictions mean campfires are only allowed in campgrounds that have an onsite host and other fire-related activities are prohibited.  For complete information on Lake Tahoe fire restrictions, visit the LTBMU website at www.fs.usda.gov/ltbmu.

In addition to fire restrictions, which are implemented to help keep our communities and forests safe, the National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches to alert fire departments and the public about critical fire weather and dry conditions that could lead to an increase in wildfire activity.  The type of weather conditions that can cause a watch or warning include low relative humidity, strong winds, dry vegetation that can feed wildfires and the possibility of lightning strikes.  Below is an explanation of the difference between a watch and a warning:

  • Fire Weather Watch – A Fire Weather Watch is issued when fire weather conditions could exist in the next 12-72 hours.  A watch is one level below a warning, but keep in mind, fire danger remains high.
  • Red Flag Warning – A Red Flag Warning is issued for weather events, which may result in extreme fire behavior that may occur within the next 24 hours.  A Red Flag Warning is the highest alert.  During these conditions, extreme caution is urged by the public because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire.

In addition to Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches, the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) allows fire managers to estimate daily fire danger for a given area.  NFDRS uses five different color-coded adjective ratings to help the public understand fire potential:  Low, Moderate, High, Very High and Extreme.  These signs are placed in key locations to alert the public about current fire danger and are most often associated with Smokey Bear.  Below is a brief explanation of the different fire danger levels:

Fire Danger Level: Low (Green): When fire danger is “low” it means vegetation that can feed a wildfire does not ignite easily from small embers, but a more intense heat source, such as lightning, may start fires in duff or dry rotten wood.  Fires in open, dry grasslands may burn easily, but most wood fires will spread slowly, creeping or smoldering.  Control of fires is generally easy.

Fire Danger Level: Moderate (Blue): When fire danger is “moderate” it means fires can start from most accidental causes, but the number of fire starts is typically low.  If a fire does start in an open, dry grassland, it will burn and spread quickly on windy days.  Most wood fires will spread slowly to moderately.  Average fire intensity will be moderate except in heavy concentrations of vegetation that can feed a wildfire, which may burn hot.  Fires are still not likely to become serious and are often easy to control.

Fire Danger Level: High (Yellow): When fire danger is “high” fires can start easily from most causes and small vegetation that can feed a wildfire (such as grasses and needles) will ignite readily.  Unattended campfires and brush fires are likely to escape.  Fires will spread easily, with some areas of high-intensity burning on slopes or concentrated vegetation.  Fires can become serious and difficult to control unless they are put out while still small.

Fire Danger Level: Very High (Orange): When fire danger is “very high” fires will start easily from most causes.  The fires will spread rapidly and have a quick increase in intensity, right after ignition.  Small fires can quickly become large fires and exhibit extreme fire behavior, such as long-distance spotting and fire whirls.  These fires can be difficult to control and will often become much larger and longer-lasting fires.

Fire Danger Level: Extreme (Red): When the fire danger is “extreme” fires of all types start quickly and burn intensely.  All fires are potentially serious and can spread very quickly with intense burning.  Small fires become big fires much faster than at the “very high” level.  Spot fires are probable, with long-distance spotting likely.  These fires are very difficult to fight and may become very dangerous and often last for several days, weeks or months.

It’s important that all residents and visitors educate themselves about wildfire prevention, share the information with family and friends, and take steps to prevent a wildfire from sparking.  One less spark means one less wildfire!  For tips on preventing wildfires, visit http://www.preventwildfireca.org/.

Contact:  Lisa Herron, U.S. Forest Service, 530-543-2815 or Eric Guevin, Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, 775-588-3591

 

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Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities: Helping residents and visitors prepare for wildfire

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:

  1. Access: Ensure your home can be easily accessed by emergency 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 responders could arrive at your home in a safe and timely manner.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

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 [email protected] 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.

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Tips for Fire Prevention This Summer at Lake Tahoe

Summer officially arrived yesterday and recreational activities are in full swing in the Tahoe Basin.  The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT) would like to take this opportunity to remind visitors and residents that wildfires pose a serious threat to Lake Tahoe neighborhoods and communities and we need help to prevent any unwanted fires this summer.  Whether camping, hiking or participating in some other activity in the forest, keep in mind the following advice to Keep Tahoe Fire Safe.

Fireworks

The Fourth of July holiday is right around the corner.  All fireworks including sparklers and firecrackers, are illegal in the Tahoe Basin because of the wildfire danger they pose to our forests.  Please leave fireworks at home and instead attend one of the amazing fireworks shows around the lake this July 4 holiday.

Campfires

Sadly, illegal campfires continue to be the cause of over 90 percent of all wildfires here at Lake Tahoe.  Please remember that campfires and portable charcoal grills are only allowed within metal fire rings and/or standup grills provided in designated campgrounds.  Campfires and portable charcoal grills are not allowed on National Forest beaches, in Desolation Wilderness, Meiss Country, along Genoa Peak Road and the Tahoe Rim Trail, or in the general forest.  Gas or propane stoves are allowed in all areas with a free, valid California Campfire Permit available at any Forest Service office. 

In addition, during periods of high fire danger, campfires in designated areas may be restricted.  Before building a campfire, be sure to check with local fire districts or the Forest Service office to find out if restrictions are in place.

Learn to properly build, maintain and extinguish campfires and always keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby.  Select an open location away from trees and overhanging tree branches, logs, brush or dry vegetation.  Keep the fire small and be sure that all logs fit within the fire ring.  Never leave the campfire unattended and completely extinguish it using the Soak, Stir and Feel method before leaving.  Soak the fire with water and stir thoroughly.  Using the back of your hand, feel for any remaining heat.  Repeat as needed until the fire is completely extinguished and no hotspots remain.

Sparks

Did you know that 95 percent of all wildfires are caused by human activity?  Things like lawn equipment, debris burning, target shooting and vehicles can all cause sparks that may ignite a wildfire when used under the wrong conditions.

Lawn mowers, weed-eaters, chain saws, grinders, welders, tractors, and trimmers can all spark a wildland fire when used during hot, dry and windy weather.  This type of equipment should be operated before 10 a.m. when the humidity is higher and never when it’s excessively dry, hot and/or windy.

Residential burning is only allowed under specific conditions and in certain areas with a valid permit.  Check with your local fire district to determine if burning is allowed in your area and if restrictions are in place.

Target shooting under hot, dry conditions can spark a fire.  When target shooting, be sure to choose an area free of dry vegetation and avoid shooting on hot, windy days.  Use proper targets, such as clay pigeons and avoid shooting at metal targets or rocks.

Vehicles should be properly maintained with nothing dragging on the ground.  Dragging chains or any other type of metal can cause sparks that may ignite a wildfire.  Practice proper towing by using appropriate safety devices and hitches that secure chains or other equipment.  Don’t drive or park vehicles on dry vegetation.  Hot exhaust pipes, mufflers and catalytic converters may ignite grasses and other vegetation.  Properly maintain brakes and tires.  Exposed wheel rims and brakes worn too thin can cause sparks.

Contact information for local fire districts or the Forest Service office in South Lake Tahoe is available at http://tahoe.livingwithfire.info/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/firedistrictmapfinalupdated5.14.14.sm_.pdf

The mission of the TFFT is to protect lives, property, and the environment of the Lake Tahoe Basin from wildfire.  To accomplish that, the TFFT needs everyone’s help and cooperation.  Learn more about fire prevention and campfire safety at http://tahoe.livingwithfire.info/, https://www.smokeybear.com/, http://thinkfirsttahoe.org/, http://www.preventwildfireca.org and/or http://www.readyforwildfire.org/.

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June is Lake Tahoe Wildfire Awareness Month

Prepare Now!  Wildfire Knows No Season

– As we’ve learned from the recent Fire Season Outlook, year-round fire season is the new normal in the Lake Tahoe Basin and throughout the country. Now is the perfect time to learn what to do to prepare your home and family to survive wildfire, and to take action. To help you with this, the collaborative members of the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team are once again conducting Lake Tahoe Wildfire Awareness Month throughout the month of June. We encourage you to “Prepare Now! Wildfire Knows No Season.”

Plan to attend one of the family-friendly events that are taking place as part of Wildfire Awareness Month. Fire service representatives and many other experts will be on hand at each of the events to visit with people one-on-one, discuss wildfire prevention and answer preparedness questions. Smokey Bear may even make a guest appearance. Contact information and other details can be found on the calendar of events at tahoe.livingwithfire.info.

The community events include the following:

  • South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue will hold their 5th Annual Wildfire Safety Expo on Saturday, June 9 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the TJ Maxx parking lot located at 2015 Lake Tahoe Blvd., also known as the “Y”.
  • Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities along with other partners will hold a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day event on Friday, June 15 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. The meet and greet event will take place at the Zephyr Cover Post Office located at 212 Elks Point Road.
  • The Whispering Pines community of Incline Village will hold a Shrub Crawl and Block Party on Saturday, June 16. The community work day will take place from 9 a.m. to noon, followed by a pot luck from noon to 3 p.m. with music, games and prizes.
  • The U.S. Forest Service and Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District want you to Learn S’More About Fire Safety and Fire Safe at Zephyr Cove Beach, on Wednesday, June 27 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. There will be free s’mores for everyone.
  • North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District will hold their annual Community Pancake Breakfast on Saturday, June 30 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the main fire station located at 875 Tanager Street in Incline Village.

Seasonal tips to help you prepare your home, family and community for wildfire year-round include:

  • Summer is a good time to connect with your neighbors to encourage community projects to help reduce the wildfire threat, maintain your defensible space and register your home and cell phones with your local emergency response system (often called Reverse 911).
  • Fall provides the opportunity to check areas where burning embers might accumulate on your property during a wildfire. The places where the leaves pile up also tend to be where embers would too during a wildfire. Remove any easily-ignited materials such as dried grass from around these areas and clean out leaves, needles and debris from your rain gutters.
  • Winter is the perfect time to complete a home inventory, prepare an evacuation plan for you and your household and prepare a to-go bag.
  • Spring is when you can begin working on your defensible space clean-up, check structures for any needed improvements to prevent ember entry and practice a family evacuation.

 

Visitors to the area are also asked to take precautions year-round to prevent starting a wildfire while recreating in the Lake Tahoe Basin’s extensive public lands and national forests. These include tips to:

  • Only have campfires in designated fire rings where they are allowed, and always put them out before leaving the campsite.
  • Avoid the use of charcoal when barbequing.
  • Use an approved spark arrestor when off-roading.
  • Leave the fireworks to the professionals.

 

 

For more information about the upcoming events, how to prepare for wildfire or to locate your local fire district, visit tahoe.livingwithfire.info or contact Sonya Sistare, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, 775-887-2252 or Lisa Herron, U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, 530-543-2815.

 

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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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