Truckee reminds residents to stay prepared for wildfires | SierraSun.com

Truckee reminds residents to stay prepared for wildfires

Hannah Jones
hjones@sierrasun.com

With fire season approaching faster than last year, given the lower levels of snow the Tahoe area received this winter, officials are asking community members to start preparing now.

According to Truckee Fire Chief Bill Seline there is a "greater than usual likelihood that a fire will occur in our area this year."

"A large fast moving wildfire that moves into our neighborhood could happen here," said Seline. "At that point we can really just get out of the way. So pre-planning is important in these events."

Seline told the Town Council Monday there are many steps residents can take to be prepared in the event of a wildfire, including fireproofing homes, checking insurance coverage, knowing the quickest route out of the neighborhood, packing a "go bag" with valuables and supplies and staying up to date on alerts.

Currently all Truckee residents are required to create 100 feet of defensible space around their homes. This means keeping grass short and watered, stacking firewood away from your home, reducing the density of the surrounding forest, pruning branches up to 6 feet and keeping the roof and gutters clear of debris. According to Seline, the department is conducting higher levels of inspections than ever before.

When it comes to evacuating, Seline said not to hesitate.

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"A lot of times we wait, that's not the way it works. The best thing to do is go off your gut feeling," he said.

Homeowners with renters are encouraged to provide the residents with information regarding safe evacuation routes out of the neighborhood.

Containing a wildfire may take more resources than the Truckee Fire Department can provide. Seline said there are "a lot of resources in our area that are experienced and very responsive." Currently Truckee has agreements with 30 other regional fire departments and a contract with Cal Fire to ensure their presence in the area in case of a fire.

Chief: Get in the know with Nixle

Seline suggested residents sign up at Nixle.com to get alerts sent directly to your phone, of which 5,000 Truckee residents are already enrolled, and check Readyforwildfire.org for red flag day warnings. These alerts will be sent out on days with low humidity, high temperatures and high wind. Approximately 10 to 15 red flag days occur during fire season.

Wildfires are not a new occurrence to the Tahoe area. For Robert Womack, Truckee's emergency operations manager, preparing for wildfires is routine and simply part of his job. He said that the local fire department and other departments have established agreements with the town, and it is properly prepared to combat the effect of wildfires.

"This group of folks catch the fires most of the time, before it becomes an issue," he said.

Womack also suggested residents sign up for alerts through Nixle. He said the program allows him to send out alerts on Twitter, Facebook, email and text within 30 seconds of receiving updates himself.

Womack and Seline encouraged residents to visit Truckeefire.org or cal 530-582-7850 for more information. However they ask to please call 911 when reporting a wildfire.

To sign up for Nixle alerts visit nixle.com. To learn about getting prepared for wildfires visit Readyforwildfire.org.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at hjones@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2652.