Officials say fire slowed by forester’s effort |

Officials say fire slowed by forester’s effort

Court Leve, Sun news serviceAir Attack: A plane drops fire retardent at the Donner Fire on Saturday.

California Department of Forestry fire crews are quick to point out how they were able to control Saturday’s blaze at Tahoe Donner, which was started by an illegal campfire.

“The forester up there has done some good fuels management,” said CDF Battalion Chief Doug Rinella. It (fuels reduction) slowed this fire down so we could stop it.”

Rinella credits Bill Houdyschell, the Tahoe Donner Forester, with helping the fire crews contain and control the blaze once it neared the Tahoe Donner subdivision by clearing out the underbrush and small trees that had once filled the area.

“He identified the south side as vulnerable (and constructed fuel breaks),” Rinella said.

What Houdyschell did for Tahoe Donner is what the CDF will be attempting to do on land in Carnelian Bay near Agate, Tripoli and Carnelian streets.

“We are trying to do mosaic control burns” Rinella added, explaining that the CDF wants to prescribe burns on patches of California Tahoe Conservancy land in the project area.

The CDF attempted to do an eight-acre test burn earlier this month, but the weather conditions didn’t meet the agency’s prescription. Rinella said the CDF will attempt the test burn again on Oct. 29.

Prescribed burns reduce fuel loads and inevitably protect structures and homes, and enhance wildlife. The fuels reduction program at Tahoe Donner is good evidence of this, he explained.

Next week, if the weather conditions meet the CDF’s prescription, Carnelian Bay residents should expect some noise from fire crews and engines moving into the area, and should also expect to see some smoke.

“It’s not easy pulling off these control burns,” Rinella said. “There are hundreds of hours of red tape, paper work. It’s almost like doing an EIR.”

Before agencies can started a prescribed burn they must first assess if there are any endangered species or archaeological finds in the area. They must also assess the impact on wildlife.

“Some plants need fire to germinate,” Rinella said.

And of course, firefighters must also get permission from the air pollution control boards before they can start a prescribed burn, he added.

Rinella said communities need to look at the long term effects of fuels management.

“Generally speaking, we’re here for 80 to 100 years. We need to look at the long term benefits because trees are around for thousands of years.”

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