Tahoe agency agrees with fire chiefs | SierraSun.com

Tahoe agency agrees with fire chiefs

Kyle Magin
Sun News Service

INCLINE VILLAGE ” Eight of nine demands by the Tahoe Basin’s fire chiefs were given a thumbs-up by Tahoe Regional Planning Agency officials, who agreed to look into ground coverage around homes.

“We were hopeful that TRPA would be in agreement with what we asked for and were pleased they were,” said Chief Mike Brown of the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.

The fire chiefs met with representatives of the bistate planning agency Friday at the Lake Valley Fire Protection District in South Lake Tahoe to discuss a nine-point letter submitted by the fire chiefs last month.

Designed to make the basin more fire safe, the nine points primarily deal with defensible space and ensuring that the entire basin, both California and Nevada, are following the same rules. The chiefs submitted the letter in hopes that it would be adopted by the bistate Blue Ribbon Fire Commission.

The Tahoe planning agency agreed outright to eight of the nine points Friday and will launch a study into the ninth, said Jeff Cowen, the agency’s community relations liaison.

The final point deals with ground coverage between 5 feet and 30 feet away from a structure.

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The fire chiefs refer to this area as the “lean, clean and green” zone and would like to see it covered with a noncombustible material.

Cowen said that traditionally the planning agency asks that this zone is covered with pine needles as part of its best management practice or BMP guidelines.

Approximately 38,000 private residential, commercial and industrial parcels remain to be retrofitted with water quality best management practices, according to the Tahoe agency’s Web site.

The BMPs are used to help offset the impact of development on Lake Tahoe’s clarity by preventing and capturing sediments in water runoff.

Cowen said pine needles are considered a good way to mulch bare soil.

“Pine needles are the best in terms of what they give back to the soil; it’s just the best answer for the ecosystem. That being said, it does produce the highest flame when ignited, so we’re looking into alternatives because we can’t have pine needles in that zone,” Cowen said.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is considering noncombustible mulch to cover the ground in that space, but Cowen said that the study will contain their findings.

The agency will conduct the study in conjunction with the University of Nevada, Reno’s cooperative extension program. He expects native vegetation will be one of best alternatives. Cowen said the study’s findings should be presented within a month or two.

“The bistate commission is expected to present a report on their conclusions in March, but we’d like to have these points agreed upon and adopted well before then,” Cowen said.

The bi-state commission reconvenes Friday at 9 a.m. in the Granlibakken Conference Center in Tahoe City. The planning agency and the fire chiefs are expected to present their progress on the nine points from the Oct. 5 meeting.