Stipends available to fund Tahoe defensible space |

Stipends available to fund Tahoe defensible space

Close to $1 million will be available to Lake Tahoe homeowners this summer to assist with the sometimes burdensome cost of carrying out defensible space.

The Nevada Fire Safe Council is funding the stipends from Sierra Nevada Public Land Management Act money allocated to Lake Tahoe.

The stipends will cover 50 percent of the total defensible space cost, up to $1,000.

But only a certain number of stipends are available, said Jessica Mahnken, project coordinator for the Nevada Fire Safe Council.

The fire safe council will be allocating the funds in various increments between the five fire districts in the Tahoe Basin. The North Tahoe Fire Protection District has $193,000, or 193 stipends, for homeowners within their boundaries, and $96,000 was allocated to the Meeks Bay Fire Protection District.

“I think everyone is going to use their own [stipend allocations] up,” Mahnken said. “Everyone is short right now, it seems.”

The stipends, local fire officials said, are a great opportunity for homeowners.

“We think [the stipends] are one of the best things we’ve been able to take on, and we certainly hope that all 96 are used up,” said Chief John Pang of the Meeks Bay Fire Protection District. “[Defensible space] can be very costly. It can be time consuming. But it’s good sweat equity to help protect your home.”

Chief Duane Whitelaw of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District said the stipends will offer relief to homeowners facing a costly invoice to fulfill their defensible space prescription.

“We realize it’s an expensive undertaking,” Whitelaw said. “We, the fire districts, all pushed hard for this stipend to get approved. And it did.”

Stewart McMorrow, the North Tahoe Fire Protection District forest fuels manager, said the cost to complete defensible space often depends on how much homeowners have kept up with the work. Once the initial clearing is done, the maintenance is easier and cheaper, he said.

“If people get on track to do that stuff, it can be quite easy,” McMorrow said. “Or it can be quite difficult if they have a big lot or they haven’t done it for years.”

But fire officials warned that the limited number of stipends will go fast.

“So I want to encourage anyone who believes they’re qualified to get their name into the fire safe council as soon as possible because the funds will not last throughout the fire season,” Whitelaw said.

Homeowners who are interested in applying for a stipend need to contact their local fire district first to have their property inspected. After the inspection, they should call the Nevada Fire Safe Council offices to receive a voucher, which will reserve the maximum $1,000 for 45 days until the work is completed.

“It’s really quite simple,” McMorrow said. “It just takes multiple steps.”

The fire districts are available to inspect homes and prescribe defensible space procedures.

Whitelaw also recommended homeowners refer to the “Living with Fire” guidelines, which will be mailed to every homeowner in the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, for details on defensible space requirements. Copies are also available at local fire stations.

“We really see the ‘Living with Fire’ document … as the Bible for defensible space in the Tahoe Basin,” Whitelaw said.

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