Recovering from fire has hidden costs | SierraSun.com

Recovering from fire has hidden costs

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

Courtesy photo/Sierra SunSome Tahoe Basin homeowners are so frantic to create defensible space that they've resorted to illegally dumping the resulting debris on public land.

The pace of defensible space work is up in the Tahoe Basin since the Angora Fire, but unfortunately so too are incidents of yard waste being dumped illegally in the national forests.

After the South Lake Tahoe wildfire, local agencies have seen an increase in households creating defensible space, but some of the brush and wood is ending up in the forest and adding to the potential risk of fire.

Now, the U.S. Forest Service is asking residents to properly dispose of plant material.

Linda Ferguson, fire prevention officer for Tahoe National Forest, said she has seen fuel piles accumulating in and around Truckee.

“Lately I’ve been seeing more and more yard waste on Forest Service land,” Ferguson said. “People think the material comes from the forest, so it’s not a big deal. But it’s still dumping.”

She said the Forest Service is happy to see more people performing defensible space, but urged them to take the extra step and dispose of the waste safely.

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“Dumping in the national forest causes several issues, most importantly it adds to fuels loading. If we have a fire they are making it that much more difficult to deal with,” Ferguson said. “Yard waste can also introduce noxious weeds, and it’s also dumping on public land meant for people to enjoy. People don’t like seeing piles of yard waste when they go for a walk.”

She said the type of waste that forestry officials are finding most often is small, finer fuel that generates tremendous heat when ignited.

Over the last month, Ferguson said she has encountered 30 to 50 piles, mostly in Forest Service Land near Tahoe Donner and Sierra Meadows.

She said the Forest Service land behind Tahoe Donner is already in need of fuel-reduction treatment, so dumping there only adds to the problem.

Truckee Mayor Richard Anderson recently characterized that forested area as “the wick that could ignite Tahoe Donner.”

Fire Prevention Officer Beth Brady of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit said she has also witnessed more debris piles on Forest Service land around the lake since the Angora Fire.