My Turn: Playing Russian roulette with our safety |

My Turn: Playing Russian roulette with our safety

Every person that lives, works or visits Lake Tahoe shares common ground when it comes to a wildfire.

Due to the high property values, the critically important tourism industry, the life safety challenges, and the moral need to protect the water clarity of Lake Tahoe for future generations, the time has come to face the facts about fire danger in the Tahoe Basin and how to plan for it.

The recent Angora and Washoe Fires provided a vivid picture of what wildfire in and around the urban interface looks and feels like. These local fires present clear indicators of the limitations of our North Tahoe Fire Protection District. As a community, we must provide the necessary resources for the fire district to respond and attack all fires quickly and effectively. In order to do this, we must be willing to make some changes.

One of the issues facing fire districts around the Tahoe Basin is a lack of funding. The North Tahoe Fire Protection District provides both fire suppression and emergency medical services (EMS). At times, some of our firefighters are staffing ambulances or transporting a patient to out of area hospitals. On a high hazard day, if a fire occurs there might be a reduction in services. To include firefighters who provide ambulance service as part of our on-duty fire suppression force, is like playing Russian roulette with our safety.

The system in place could eventually be stressed enough to fail. We are fortunate to have dedicated, brave, and well trained firefighters serving the North Tahoe Fire Protection District. If we care about public safety, want to be prepared, and are willing to make positive changes, we need more of them. We need better firefighting engines and equipment. We need to enhance our defensible space inspections and chipping programs. We need emergency funds to support firefighting helicopters when needed. We need better emergency communication systems and evacuation planning. We need to be prepared.

Fire Chief Duane Whitelaw understands the fire risk to our communities. I respect his knowledge, as well as his vision, for what must be done as a community to protect our lives, our homes, and this wonderful environment we all love so much. Please support the North Tahoe Fire District.

During my fire service career, I would tell an imaginary story to educate people on the need to provide defensible space and adequately fund the fire department. I would stand next to them in their yard and ask them to close their eyes. I would say, “Visualize that everything that is important to you is gone. Your house, car, all of your belongings, the entire neighborhood is gone. All of the homes and trees blackened by a devastating fire. Now, ask yourself, what would you be willing to do to prevent it from ever happening?”

Most people would enthusiastically open their eyes and say, “Anything and everything!”

Unfortunately, thanks to the Angora and Washoe Fires, home owners, business owners, environmentalist, elected officials ” none of us need to close our eyes and imagine any longer. We all know what can happen. Now is the time to do anything and everything to prevent it from happening again.

Remember, we decide the level of fire safety our fire protection district is able to provide.

Please help yourself and your community by voting yes for the North Tahoe Fire Protection District’s Fire Protection and Benefit Assessment.

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