Chief’s Corner: Spring events to help prepare for wildfire season |

Chief’s Corner: Spring events to help prepare for wildfire season

Michael Schwartz
Chief’s Corner

It took a while to shake off Old Man Winter and it’s finally time to swing into spring with events in the Tahoe area to help residents prepare for wildfire season.

As we embark on spring cleaning after this heavy winter, it’s time to think about actions we can take now to make our homes fire resistant before wildfire season is upon us. There are several events, opportunities and activities around Tahoe to help residents prepare their communities for wildfire season. These include educational opportunities, free defensible space inspections and free curbside chipping, free green waste collection events, dumpster rebates, and community clean up days to take advantage of.

The time to prepare homes for wildfire is now. Studies show that most homes lost in wildfire events are not the result of direct contact with flames, but the result of ember showers raining down like a hail storm, sometimes miles from the fire — and miles from firefighting resources. This is why we see some homes survive in the midst of other homes that are destroyed.

Items around homes catch embers and smolder, eventually catching the homes on fire. Combustible items around the home like a pile of leaves or pine needles that collect on the steps or in a corner may be the culprit (if leaves tend to collect in the same spot, the embers will likely collect there too). Other items that lead to home fires include combustible patio furniture, patio or window sill decorations, items stored on the deck or in the carport, debris filled gutters, natural fiber doormats, etc. that ignite from embers.

Homes that have been cleared of this combustible debris have a much better chance of surviving ember showers.

Ember vulnerabilities are threats we need to mitigate, along with maintaining traditional defensible space to protect our homes from surface fires. We can’t eliminate the threat of wildfire, but if communities take advantage of the resources available to prepare now, those efforts will improve their odds in the event of a fire.

For additional information on preparing your home for wildfires, visit

Michael Schwartz joined the North Tahoe Fire Protection District as its fire chief in 2012, after serving 29 years with a neighboring fire agency. Along with his wife Jean, they have been a part of the Lake Tahoe community since 1978.