We live in the middle of a forest, which is a great place to reside, but there are some precautions that property owners should take. The potential for loss of property due to wildfires is increasing so homeowners in the Lake Tahoe basin are learning to minimize the fire danger risk.
One way the Lake Tahoe home owner is accomplishing this is by creating more fireproof space around their home. These are proven steps that residents and communities can take to improve the odds of wildfire survival and they aren’t very hard for the homeowner to implement.
Defensible Space in Lake Tahoe
Defensible Space is the most effective way for property owners to protect their buildings, and sometimes their lives, against the devastation caused by catastrophic forest fires. The fire officials I speak with all tell me the same thing: They will concentrate fire fighting efforts on homes that they can save, which means homes with defensible space.
California law now requires 100 feet of Defensible Space around a home. Defensible Space does not mean a paved parking lot. It means that the home design and construction, building materials and surrounding vegetation do not contribute to the intensity of the fire.
Defensible space does not mean removing all vegetation around your home. It means modifying and maintaining vegetation to reduce the intensity and speed of a wildfire when it reaches your home.
In this picture you’ll see zones marked 1 and 2 as provided by the Lake Valley Fire Department in South Lake Tahoe.
1) Create a clean zone with little or no combustibles within 30 feet of your home.
2) Create a fuel reduction zone from 30 to 100 feet of your home (depending on your lot size).
• Cut dry grass regularly within 100 feet of your home. Gas powered tools can start fires when fire danger is high, so work early in the morning on a cool, moist day, if possible. Rake and remove clippings.
• Use irrigated, fire-resistant plants where possible. Rock, stone, and other materials can be used to create an attractive, fire-safe landscape.
• Make decks fire safe by clearing vegetation and combustibles like lumber and firewood from underneath. Enclose underside with fire resistant building materials if possible.
• Apply 1/4 inch mesh screen to all roof and basement vent openings.
• Keep trees limbed up 10′ from the ground or from the tops of plants below (or 1/3 the height of trees shorter than 30′), and cut back at least 10′ from your chimney and roof. Remove all dead limbs.
• Clean all needles and leaves from the roof and rain gutters regularly during fire season.
• Maintain your landscaping by mowing, watering, weeding and removing dead needles and leaves.
• Maintain fire engine access to your home by clearing vegetation 10 from the sides of roads and driveways and 14′ vertically.
• Make your address visible from the street in both directions, with 4″ (minimum) reflective numbers on a contrasting background.
These ideas are to make your Lake Tahoe home safer in the case of fire. Being prepared is the key to living in any forested and mountain community.
Living With Fire in the Lake Tahoe Basin is a program created by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and co-sponsored by Nevada Division of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, TRPA and the University of California. Their “Ember Aware” program gives guidelines on how to be fire safe in our homes and is a good resource for information including tools and resources.
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