North Shore receives fire safety funds |

North Shore receives fire safety funds

If the last month is any indication of what summer holds for fire season, local fire districts will have their hands full.

But what they really want to have their hands full of now is yard debris.

In order to maintain and develop forest fuels programs like the free pine needle disposal, curbside chipping and defensible space inspections, North Tahoe, Meeks Bay and Truckee fire protection districts have worked hard to obtain federal and state funding to continue such services.

“The importance is to reduce the fuels in the forest and the interface and help people create their defensible space, so hopefully we can help to save their property in the event of a catastrophic fire,” said Meeks Bay Fire Chief John Pang.

The North Tahoe fire district recently received a state grant of $119,000 through Calfire. This year’s funding nearly triples that from previous years and allowed the district to hire Stewart McMorrow as its forest fuels program manager.

“What we’re able to do is get Calfire to fund a position in our program that will now allow us under [Tahoe Regional Planning Agency] authority and go out and evaluate trees … mark them, issue the permits,” McMorrow said.

Now, North Tahoe Fire can take more fire safety measures into their own hands by providing not only defensible space inspections, free chipping and debris clearance, but tree removal permits also.

“We didn’t have the staff to dedicate resources to it like we needed,” said North Tahoe Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Dave Ruben. “We’re able to service our constituents better with this grant from Calfire. We believe we’re going to be able to supply a much more timely service.”

Because fuels programs are grant-funded, many of the fire districts struggle with stable financing. Tahoe Basin fire districts recently submitted a grant proposal with Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act for $5.3 million to help continue paying for existing fuels-reduction programs.

If the several million dollars don’t come through, the special districts intend to pursue grants elsewhere, McMorrow said.

“The goal of this whole [fuels reduction] program is to get people to do their defensible space, and we’re trying to provide a convenient and less expensive way to do it,” said McMorrow.

Defensible space is not just encouraged by local fire districts, but mandated by law.

“It’s an annual thing that needs to be looked at every year, because as foliage grows, then the clearances are reduced and the lower limbs that die need to be removed,” said Gene Welch, Truckee Fire District public safety and information officer. “This is something that’s not only a state law but is being enforced by your insurance companies.”

The law orders 100 feet of defensible space around a home, for protection of both the property and firefighters.

And whether or not this summer turns into the big fire season officials expect it to be, defensible space is a homeowner’s best safeguard. Contact your local fire district to take advantage of your tax dollars at work.

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