My Turn: Looking for solutions to make community fire safe | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Looking for solutions to make community fire safe

Duane L. Whitelaw

Thank you all for calling or sending e-mail regarding the fire suppression assessment. The support has been overwhelming, and for that we are grateful.

The North Tahoe Fire Protection District is cautiously breathing a sigh of relief. We may soon be able to call this fire season over. This was our worst fire season in the district. Our neighbors in South Lake Tahoe suffered the devastation of the Angora Fire and here at home, we felt the tragedy of the Washoe Fire.

There were four structure fires with the potential to devastate adjacent properties and numerous smaller vegetation fires that threatened our communities. If the trend continues next season there is the possibility the season will be a bad one as well.

Out of tragedy often comes good. I have never seen more homeowners cleaning up their yards and preparing their defensible space. Neighbors are talking to each other about preparations in the event of evacuations. We are no longer sending mixed messages to property owners about defensible space; we know it works to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire.

Here at the fire district we are looking for solutions to make our community safer. To do this we need your help. The North Tahoe Fire Protection District Fire Suppression Benefit Assessment will get us closer to our goal of protecting this community.

We need more defensible space inspectors, greater capacity in our curbside chipping program and an enhancement of the tree-marking program and fuel reductions program for homeowners and hand crews for fuels reduction programs on vacant property who can be called upon to be fire fighters when needed.

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Assessment funds will allow for a neighborhood specific evacuation planning for every neighborhood and helicopter support to keep fires small. We also need upgraded communications equipment to help coordinate with other fire agencies and law enforcement during an emergency.

Funds will also be used for increased staffing on the 10 to 20 Red Flag Warning Days each year when low humidity and high wind create an increased risk.

We can meet those demands with your help. A few weeks ago we sent out ballots to over 10,000 property owners in the fire district. Some of you had questions about the process and wanted to know why you were asked to sign your ballot. In all Benefit Assessment elections, ballots are considered “public information” and California state law requires them to be signed.

Also, as required by law, the fire district hired a third party to conduct the election and tally the results. We will not see the ballots unless someone specifically asks to review them. Ballots will be opened and tallied at the conclusion of the public hearing on Oct. 23. This is also the last opportunity for a vote to be cast.

As always, I can be reached at 530-583-6911 or through Whitelaw@ntfire.net.