Fire chiefs call for Tahoe agency changes |

Fire chiefs call for Tahoe agency changes

INCLINE VILLAGE ” Lake Tahoe fire chiefs are calling for changes in Tahoe Regional Planning Agency ordinances to make the basin more fire safe.

A nine-point plan ” which pinpoints specific agency rules to be changed ” will be presented Friday at the second meeting of the California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission, the blue ribbon commission appointed by the governors of California and Nevada.

The commission will meet at the Chateau in Incline Village from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. The forum is open to the public.

On July 25, California and Nevada governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Gibbons signed a bi-state Blue Ribbon Fire Commission agreement, which includes a fact-finding panel of 17 members that will report on the Angora fire, forest management policies and emergency preparedness.

The commission is charged with examining ways to reduce the threat of wildfire while protecting the fragile environment at Lake Tahoe. A report of the commission’s findings is due out in March 2008.

The seven basin fire chiefs, from the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, North Tahoe Fire Protection District, South Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, Lake Valley Fire Protection District, Meeks Bay Fire Protection District and Fallen Leaf Fire Department will submit the nine-point recommendation to the commission for their consideration Friday.

The recommendations are meant to improve fuels management and make the basin safer by changing some ordinances of the bistate planning agency. Currently, the recommendations are in a draft format, so other fire protection agencies can either ask for changes to them or for clarification.

“These points are basically what we as the fire protection agencies would like to see happen around the basin as far as things like fuel management are concerned,” said North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection Chief Mike Brown.

The letter was sent out Tuesday afternoon and Brown expects that it will be discussed at Friday’s meeting.

The draft proposal asks that homeowners be allowed to remove trees within 100 feet of a structure, create defensible space for 100 feet around a home and 300 feet on sloped properties, remove native shrubs and trees from under drip-lines of overhangs, be able to remove pine needles and mulch from around homes up to 30 feet and be able to build a noncombustible “moat” of rock, gravel or brick without it being considered a coverage increase.

Among the recommendations is a stipulation that calls for any best management practices required by TRPA code to be repealed if they conflict with PRC 4291, a California defensible-space law that the fire chiefs hope to adopt basin-wide.

“Our defensible space needs to work hand in hand with the BMPs and there can’t be any discrepancy between the two,” Brown said. “We want to make sure that they are equal. Right now TRPA’s BMPs are in conflict with defensible space evaluations.”

Brown was unsure how the Tahoe planning agency would respond to the proposed changes.

“We don’t know whether they will accept them or not, but everything is up for discussion at this point. We’ve decided to let the commission see this and let people discuss it in public at the commission meeting if they have any great concerns over it,” Brown said.

Julie Regan, TRPA’s director of public relations, said the agency has been moving for the last three years to get their BMPs more in-line with good defensible space standards.

“We are open to changes as far as these recommendations are involved,” Regan said. “We think that people who are already adhering to our BMPs can take that opportunity to create defensible space at the same time; the two should go hand-in-hand. We are certainly open to working with the commission to keep the area safe.”

Uniformity across the basin’s fire protection districts is important to Brown as well.

“We all want to be preaching the same message and be on the same page,” Brown said. “We’re going to do what it takes to keep our community safe and hopefully the other agencies do too.”

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