Defensible space evaluations set to begin May 4 | SierraSun.com

Defensible space evaluations set to begin May 4

Luke Beasley
Sierra Sun

LAKE TAHOE “-The North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District announced that defensible space evaluations will begin next week. Requests for appointments are already being taken.

Fire Chief Mike Brown said that, ideally, all residencies in the district would be evaluated.

“Owners need to take responsibility for their property in a fashion that keeps their personal property safe as well as that of their neighbors,” he said. “That’s why defensible space is such a priortity. In the environment we live in, people need to be able to ensure that if a fire starts, their home, their neighbors’ homes and everything around them can be defended.

“It’s a community responsibility,” Brown said.

The evaluations are scheduled by appointment with the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District. The district said all snow must be off the ground of a property for it to be fully inspected, so lower elevation properties will be evaluated first.

Evaluations are conducted at no expense to the property owner, but compliance with the recommendations made by the district must be carried at the owner’s expense. Though the district cannot mandate or enforce compliance, Brown did say that it’s imperative to keep properties safe.

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“It’s common sense,” he said. “If you’re taking care of your space, if a fire starts, the odds are we’re going to be able to jump on it and supress it. But if they don’t, then it can spread to their neighbors and even the forest.”

The North Tahoe Fire Protection District began its inspections last week. Forest Fuels Manager Stewart McMorrow said they have received about 10 request per day, though he expects that number to climb to around 50 as the summer months approach.

McMorrow said that, in a given year, North Tahoe Fire officials may inspect up to 3,000 of the roughly 12,000 properties under the district’s jurisdiction. They have one inspector on staff, in addition to the assistance they receive from CalFire, which has increased its presence since the 2007 Angora and Washoe fires.

“We’d love to meet with every single person,” McMorrow said. “If that became the request volume, then we’d have to adjust accordingly. At the moment, like everyone else, things are a little tight, and we can only afford one inspector right now.”

Despite this, McMorrow did say that the district has historically been able to satisfy all the evaluations that are requested. In addition to requests, the district performs blanket inspections on targeted areas.

McMorrow said that if property-owners neglect to solicit an inspection, they should ” at the very least ” do the little things to maintain a relatively safe property, including raking up pine needles and not storing wood piles underneath decks or immediately next to their homes.

“That’s a huge step,” he said. “It’s not the same as having an actual inspection, but it’s better than nothing.”