East West implements fire prevention measures | SierraSun.com

East West implements fire prevention measures

Developer East West Partners has taken measures to protect Truckee’s forests – and save its investments.

Recently implemented on its Old Greenwood project – and a possibility for its Gray’s Crossing project – East West is implementing defensible space and fire prevention measures (also called a shaded fuel break) to lessen the possibility of a fire jumping to or from the development.

East West’s Jeff Butterworth said the move should make for a healthier and more attractive forest. “If the place burned down, what investment do we have?” he said.

The main tactics East West is using, Butterworth noted, is in a 30-foot zone around the Old Greenwood site, in which East West has trimmed the trees. He said the dead branches near the bottoms of 15- to 30-foot trees have been cut off, leaving the healthy branches closer to the top.

In an 80-foot zone around most of the site, Butterworth said the company has taken bulldozers and ripped up the sage brush, which he said can aid the movement of fires.

Although the fire breaks were required of the project, “They did an outstanding job on Old Greenwood,” said Bob Bena, the Truckee Fire Protection District Fire Marshall.

He added that all the major subdivisions are now including these measures, to provide more protection in fires. “The chances are greatly reduced for catastrophic events,” Bena said. “It provides more time for us to respond.”

The fire breaks helps protect the subdivisions from fires outside moving in, as well as slowing the spread of fires that start within. “You really end up with a pretty safe subdivision,” Bena said.

The defensible space was also applied to the golf course holes, which should also help to slow the spread of any fires near the golf course.

While the older subdivisions are more susceptible to fires, he said, some are taking measures to include these fire breaks. Tahoe Donner and Northstar-at-Tahoe subdivisions are two that have taken these measures to protect the homes. The Tahoe Donner fire break improvements, Bena added, may have saved some homes and other structures in the recent Donner fire.

Bena said a big problem in the recent Southern California fires was exactly what Truckee is trying to protect against. He said, “They’ve only created enough room for a house and a road,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to defend against that.”

Pine Forest and Lahontan (“Lahontan did a great job,” Bena said) are two newer subdivisions that have also included fire breaks in their developments. He said that with the new subdivisions, fire prevention occurs before and during the construction of houses and other buildings, giving each building 30 feet of defensible space.

Butterfield mentioned East West had spent approximately $60,000 to $80,000 on the prevention measures, and it plans to do the same for the proposed Gray’s Crossing development. The project is still in its approval stage.

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