Placer County to review fire ordinances | SierraSun.com

Placer County to review fire ordinances

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

Following the devastating Angora fire in South Lake Tahoe, Placer County’s Tahoe Supervisor Bruce Kranz pushed Tuesday for less regulation of forest thinning along streams, and stiffer county ordinances to encourage defensible space.

Kranz received support from the other Placer County supervisors to push for a more aggressive forest management stance that officials hope will help protect rural Placer communities from catastrophic wildfires.

“It could very well happen here,” said Kranz. “It just happened first in El Dorado county.”

The county will examine two issues: Defensible space enforcement and forest thinning in stream zones ” both of which Kranz said contributed to the devastating intensity of the Angora fire in South Lake Tahoe that destroyed more than 250 homes.

“Our steam environment was not adequately cleaned up and it provided a wick [for the fire],” said Kranz, of the Angora Fire.

Kranz brought in John Pickett, who runs the Nevada Fire Safe Council’s thinning operations throughout the Tahoe Basin, to talk to the supervisors at their regular board meeting Tuesday at the Placer government center in Auburn.

Pickett, who in a previous job at the Forest Service had worked to thin the forest that was razed in the Angora fire, said costly gaps in the thinning caused the fire to burn out of control.

“We had an issue that was caused solely by our inability to get into the stream environment zone,” said Pickett.

Pickett said the stream zone was not thinned because it would have required the work only be done by hand crews at a cost between $15,000 and $20,000 an acre.

The unthinned stream zone ignited into a “mile and a half fire flank that engulfed the community and that was impossible to put out,” said Pickett.

Pickett also suggested that the county push for thinning on undeveloped private lots adjacent to homes, and push for a larger area of pine-needle clearing around homes.

“There is a responsibility for living in a wildland-urban interface,” said Pickett.

Placer County also vowed to work with the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to encourage the agencies to ease restrictions on forest thinning in stream zones.

The state is also working on updating a map that shows the severity of fire threats throughout California.

CalFire will hold a public meeting in Truckee on July 24 at the Truckee Donner Public Utility District to produce maps identifying areas that face moderate, high or very high fire hazard within state fire protection areas.

The maps are used to determine legal requirements affecting property owners including building construction standards. The maps were last updated in the late 1980s.

Comprehensive information on the map update is available at http://www.fire.ca.gov/wildland.php. The Web site includes an interactive map that allows users to find the proposed hazard rating for a specific address.

For more information on the public hearings schedule, contact Gina Chamberlin at (530) 277-2322 or by e-mail at gina.chamberlin@fire.ca.gov.