Tahoe Fuels and Fires Team: Watches and warnings

Special to the Sierra Sun

TDPUD Alert: Prepare for Power Outages and Emergencies

Truckee Donner Public Utility District is urging customers to be prepared for prolonged power outages and emergency situations in the event that NV Energy cuts power to Truckee due to extreme fire danger.

NV Energy has implemented a new program Public Safety Outage Management where, based on catastrophic wildfire risk, NV Energy will de-energize transmission lines that deliver power to Truckee.

The outages could affect TDPUD’s entire customer base for extended periods of time. Details on NV Energy’s PSOM program can be found at

TDPUD is asking customers to confirm their contact information and sign up for automated alerts via text or email at and by clicking on My Account. TDPUD customers can sign up for alerts for NV Energy wildfire danger outage and other emergency situations. TDPUD wants everyone to be prepared for wildfire season and has information and links to resources at

“This is about public safety and being prepared for wildfires and other emergencies,” said Joe Horvath, TDPUD electric utility director. “TDPUD’s goal is to make sure everyone is as prepared as possible in the event that NV Energy cuts power to Truckee or if we experience another emergency situation.”

Preparations for wildfires and power outages can include identifying backup charging methods for phones and electronic devices, making hard copies of emergency contacts and family information, planning for medical needs (including power dependent breathing machines, wheelchairs, dialysis, etc.) and planning for pets and livestock.

Residents or businesses who can’t be without power should consider professionally installing a generator. All property owners should ensure there’s defensible space around homes and businesses. For additional information and resources visit To contact TDPUD and update your contact information, visit or call 530-387-3896.

Fire season is now considered a year-round event, particularly in the western United States.

In the past, wildfires normally occurred in late summer and early fall when temperatures were high, humidity low and vegetation extremely dry. Local, state and federal fire managers now know that devastating wildfires can occur any time of year, so fire season is now known as a fire year.

Most wildfires continue to be human-caused and are completely preventable. Fire prevention is the key to keeping our communities and forests safe from unwanted wildland fires.

In addition to fire restrictions, which are implemented to help keep our communities and forests safe, the National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches to alert fire departments and the public about critical fire weather and dry conditions that could lead to an increase in wildfire activity. The type of weather conditions that can cause a watch or warning include low relative humidity, strong winds, dry vegetation and the possibility of lightning strikes. Below is an explanation of the difference between a watch and a warning:

Fire Weather Watch – issued when fire weather conditions could exist in the next 12-72 hours. A watch is one level below a warning, but keep in mind, fire danger remains high.

Red Flag Warning – issued for weather events, which may result in extreme fire behavior that may occur within the next 24 hours. A Red Flag Warning is the highest alert. During these conditions, extreme caution is urged because a simple spark can cause a major wildfire.

In addition to Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches, the National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) allows fire managers to estimate daily fire danger for a given area. NFDRS uses five different color-coded adjective ratings to help the public understand fire potential. These signs are placed in key locations to alert the public about current fire danger and are most often associated with Smokey Bear. Below is an explanation of the different fire danger levels:

Fire Danger Level: Low (Green)

Vegetation that can feed a wildfire does not ignite easily from small embers, but a more intense heat source, such as lightning, may start fires in duff or dry rotten wood. Fires in open, dry grasslands may burn easily, but most wood fires will spread slowly, creeping or smoldering. Control of fires is generally easy.

Fire Danger Level: Moderate (Blue)

Fires can start from most accidental causes, but the number of fire starts is typically low. If a fire starts in an open, dry grassland, it will burn and spread quickly on windy days. Most wood fires will spread slowly to moderately. Average fire intensity will be moderate except in heavy concentrations of vegetation, which may burn hot. Fires are still not likely to become serious and are often easy to control.

Fire Danger Level: High (Yellow)

Fires can start easily from most causes and small vegetation (such as grasses and needles) will ignite readily. Unattended campfires and brush fires are likely to escape. Fires will spread easily, with some areas of high-intensity burning on slopes or concentrated vegetation. Fires can become serious and difficult to control unless they are put out while small.

Fire Danger Level: Very High (Orange)

Fires will start easily from most causes. The fires will spread rapidly and have a quick increase in intensity, right after ignition. Small fires can quickly become large fires and exhibit extreme fire behavior, such as long-distance spotting and fire whirls. These fires can be difficult to control and will often become much larger and longer-lasting fires.

Fire Danger Level: Extreme (Red)

Fires of all types start quickly and burn intensely. All fires are potentially serious and can spread very quickly with intense burning. Small fires become big fires much faster than at the “very high” level. Spot fires are probable, with long-distance spotting likely. These fires are very difficult to fight and may become very dangerous and often last for several days, weeks or months.

It’s important that residents and visitors in the Tahoe Basin educate themselves about wildfire prevention, share information with family and friends, and take steps to prevent a wildfire from sparking. For tips on preventing wildfires, visit

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