My Turn: Have we lost focus on fire safety?
The recent catastrophic Angora Fire in South Lake Tahoe continues to fan the flames of age-old controversies and issues. Wildfires will continue to be part of living in the West and rural America. Under the right weather conditions even properly managed forests will have catastrophic fires and homes with adequate defensible space will burn. This is just the way it is. Now having said that; to increase your odds of surviving a wildfire and or having less catastrophic regional fires, proper defensible space must be created and the forests need to be proactively managed (thinned and logged). I attended the press conference yesterday where the governors from California and Nevada announced the creation of a commission to study what can be done differently and what needs to change in the Tahoe Basin to prevent such losses in the future. Although pleased that homeowner defensible space and forest management issues finally have the attention of the masses, I began to wonder. As I continued to listen and look over a display set up to highlight wildland fire safety and defensible space, I wondered if the community and public officials hadnt lost focus. I wondered if the wildfire preparedness pendulum hadnt swung too far from center. I got Fired Up Others and myself worked hard with the University of Nevada Extension to create simple and useful information regarding fire safety in the home information that is coupled with wildland safety information, yet it is getting no attention or press. Why? It is not flashy or news worthy. Yet throughout the West and in our own communities more homes and lives are lost annually from fires burning from the inside out, not from the outside in.Thats right! Although wildfires get the big news and capture the attention of all, the reality is that more homes are damaged and lost daily across the West from the inside out. Worse yet is that most of these fires are preventable and people are losing their lives and fire fighters are at risk daily. Most recently, in San Pablo two residents along with two Contra Costa County firefighters, Americas Finest, lost their lives conducting suppression and rescue efforts. Have we forgotten or ignored the fire safety messages regarding fire safety inside the home?Become part of the solution, as a homeowner/landowner you must do your part. Take responsibility for your home and property. Create a fire safe environment inside and out. You cant control Mother Nature when she is at her worst and we all struggle to change large bureaucracies, however you have control over fire safety inside and out of your home.So, before you go out and work on your defensible space check your smoke detectors, it just takes a few minutes. When was the last time you checked yours? Invest in a carbon monoxide monitor. Conduct an in-the-home fire safety inspection. Most fire districts offer free smoke detectors to those that dont have them.The Truckee Fire Protection District offers a multitude of resident and landowner assistance programs to help you maintain and dispose of unwanted brush, small trees, and limb wood. Free curbside chipping is offered in most communities. For fire prevention and fire safety inside and out assistance information within Truckee Fire Protection District call 582-7850 or view our Web site http://www.truckeefire.org/For those that continue to do their part, the community and I thank you for being fire safe inside and out. For those of you that dont heed the repeated warnings and put your loved ones, neighbors, property, and the community at risk, please focus on the task at hand before it is too late. Bryce E. Keller is the chief of the Truckee Fire Protection District.