Fire awareness highlights Good Morning Truckee meeting
This coming fire season took center stage at Tuesday’s Good Morning Truckee meeting, bringing together a trio of experts to talk about last year’s fires and the forecast for the upcoming season.
Cal Fire Unit Chief Brian Estes led off the meeting by offering statistics on last year’s fire season, which he called “the most destructive and disastrous fire season in California’s recorded history.”
Estes said more than 4 million acres burned last year in California, resulting in 33 deaths and 10,488 structures destroyed. Locally, the Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit dealt with nearly 1,000 wildfires in 2020, of which 28 occurred in eastern Placer and Nevada counties.
“The risk is incredibly high on the east side … but we kept our frequency and our acreage fairly low on the east side last year, and a lot of that was due to just a very robust and unified response from state, federal, and local resources,” said Estes, who highlighted the collaborative effort between multiple agencies across county and state lines.
“Having that fabric weaved into the closest resource concept, regardless of the patch on the side of the fire engine, I think is a direct result of our low acreage and low number of fires,” he said.
Estes’ crews were responsible for burning 712 hazard piles, treating 58 acres, and felling 97 hazard trees during 2020.
Estes ended his time by giving a forecast on the upcoming fire season, stating that there is a very high potential for large fire growth at mid- to higher elevations due to a small snowpack and dry spring conditions.
Truckee District Ranger Jonathan Cook-Fisher stressed the importance of responsible camping, stating that after an increase in outdoor activities due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Forest Service is coming into 2021 with an increased staff and more signage placed at popular locations.
Cook-Fisher said that a record of more than 20,000 acres were treated in Tahoe National Forest in 2020, including 3,450 acres of prescribed burns. Forest Service crews have already treated an additional 400 acres in 2021.
Projects slated for the Forest Service this year include prescribed burns in Prosser Hill, Big Jack East, Glenshire, Brockway, near Stamped Reservoir, and a project that will treat 6,000 acres along Highway 89.
“This represents perhaps Truckee’s largest vegetation management project in recent history,” said Cook-Fisher. “We’re really excited because this area represents perhaps some of our greatest fire risk. It is both an evacuation route, but it’s also an area of the forest in which we have very little fire history, and the conditions are such that it has potential for a large, catastrophic fire.”
Truckee Fire Protection District Chief Bill Seline touched on the importance of personal responsibility and defensible space around homes.
“Reducing fuels around our homes is still the gold standard of reducing fire spread in neighborhoods,” said Seline, who added that many of the areas outside of town haven’t seen a fire larger than 10 acres in more than 100 years, creating historic fuel levels.
Truckee now sports 20 Firewise communities, according to Seline, which practice methods of creating defensible space like limbing trees, spacing bushes and other plants, removal of pine needles and dead vegetation, and other recommendations.
Green waste from creating defensible space can be dropped off free today at the McIver Rodeo Arena, 10695 Brockway Road, Truckee. Other free drop-off dates are June 4 and June 25.
For more information on fire preparedness, visit http://www.readyforwildfire.org.
Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-550-2643
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Highs for Truckee will return to the 70s by early next week, the National Weather Service said.