Martis Peak Fire Lookout season nears |

Martis Peak Fire Lookout season nears

An asset when it comes to fire detection, the Martis Peak Fire Lookout has a tentative opening date of July 1.Volunteers who staff the lookout detect between 30 and 60 sources of smoke a year, making it not only important to the Tahoe National Forest, but to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, as well.The lookout plays an instrumental role in the early detection of forest fires, but is also used to track thunderstorms around the area. Cal Fire Battalion Chief Doug Rinella estimated that half the fires detected from the lookout are the result of lightning strikes, while the other half are caused by humans. Rick Baender, an ex-firefighter and 7-year veteran of the lookout, agreed.The majority of human caused fires are accidental: campfires and equipment operations or cars backfiring, Baender said.Baender added that the Martis Peak Fire Lookout is the last active fire lookout around Lake Tahoe.Last year the lookout was manned completely by volunteers due to lack of funding. This year, three fire stations, Northstar Fire, Truckee Fire and North Tahoe Fire, have been approached to help with funding.Fire Chief Duane Whitelaw of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District said the lookout plays an important role.Its an important program because the benefits are shared. Its such a great vantage point to the lake, But Whitelaw said the North Tahoe district will not decide whether or not to fund the lookout until its board meeting on June 20.Battalion Chief Rinella said he feels there is still a need for the lookout for the early detection of forest fires. We think it offers a good fire prevention method through visitors.The Martis Peak Fire Lookout is located at the summit of SR 267. Visitors are welcome between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the operating season.

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