Chief’s Corner: Keeping Tahoe fire safe | SierraSun.com

Chief’s Corner: Keeping Tahoe fire safe

Ryan Sommers
Chief’s Corner

Our abundant snow and rainfall this winter will likely grow an abundance of rangeland grasses in our area, which, when they dry and cure will serve as fuel for late summer fires.

June is Lake Tahoe Wildfire Awareness Month and we are reminding folks to "Think First to Keep Tahoe Fire Safe." Visit tahoe.livingwithfire.info for more information and community events throughout the month.

While we are all watching the fire season approach us, we are also watching the lake level rise and water temperature drop below average for this time of year as the snow melts off.

"Swim Safe. Boat Safe" is a multi-agency campaign that launched last year with the hopes of educating residents and visitors about the dangers of cold water. We respond to many water incidents during the summer months, and I expect this summer to be no different, if not more so with the unusually high lake level and lower than usual water temperatures.

Most of the drownings on Lake Tahoe happen in minutes or even seconds. The best way for boaters, paddlers, and swimmers to stay safe is to always wear a life jacket. Even if a boater or paddler does not expect to enter the water, they should prepare for the unexpected.

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Most of the drownings on Lake Tahoe happen in minutes or even seconds. The best way for boaters, paddlers, and swimmers to stay safe is to always wear a life jacket. Even if a boater or paddler does not expect to enter the water, they should prepare for the unexpected.

Drowning incidents from boating, paddling, and swimming often share the same cause, "cold water shock," an involuntary gasp reflex caused by sudden immersion in cold water.

Swimmers and boaters suddenly exposed to the cold waters of Lake Tahoe may experience rapid breathing, gasping, fainting, muscle failure, and immediate risk of drowning.

Some tips to stay safe on Lake Tahoe include:

Never swim alone.

Tell a friend or file a "float plan" before boating, swimming or paddling.

Check the weather for wind conditions http://www.weather.gov/ before going out.

Know your swimming limitations and always wear a life jacket when boating.  

Never operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Never jump into cold water and always prepare for accidental immersion.

Boaters are required to carry a life jacket for every person on board any boat, including stand up paddleboards, kayaks, and rafts. Children 12 years old and younger are required to wear a life jacket on a boat at all times, unless in an enclosed cabin.

Visitors to Lake Tahoe can learn about safe boating and swimming safety by listening to a Nevada Department of Wildlife podcast on the subject at http://www.nevadawild.org.

Ryan Sommers is the fire chief for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.