South Lake Tahoe, Calif. – An updated Lake Tahoe Basin Community Wildfire Protection Plan will be presented to the public during the Lake Tahoe Environmental Summit on Monday, August 24, 2015. This new Community Wildfire Protection Plan was collaboratively developed by the 18 member organizations of the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT) and is the culmination of a three-year planning effort.
At last year’s Lake Tahoe Summit, the TFFT presented the updated Lake Tahoe Basin Multi-jurisdictional Fuel Reduction and Wildfire Prevention Strategy, which provides a strategic framework for how land managers and the public work together to lessen the risk of loss from wildland fire. The strategy can be thought of as a business plan and agreement between the public and Tahoe agencies. The updated Community Wildfire Protection Plan is over 500 pages, including tables and maps, and is a comprehensive planning document, with specific prioritized projects and community actions that have been proven to effectively reduce wildland fire danger.
The Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 created the concept of Community Wildfire Protection Plans. Prior to that time, fire planning was done by federal and state land managers, generally without a partner in the local community, because few community groups addressed fire hazard specifically. At that same time, federal and state agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service and CAL FIRE, were under increasing budgetary pressures. Fire suppression costs began consuming increasingly large percentages of budgets, but home losses and acres burned continued to increase dramatically. The president and Congress worked together in a bipartisan manner to change course and give communities the tools and authority to take charge of their local risk and plan and implement projects to address that risk.
In 2004, the Nevada Fire Safe Council, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, U.S. Forest Service, state agencies and local fire agencies produced Community Wildfire Protection Plans that served as the primary planning tool for fuels reduction projects around the Tahoe Basin. Projects implemented under the original plan have successfully kept fire starts small and enabled successful, and un-newsworthy, suppression. While there is clearly still great fire hazard in areas of the Tahoe Basin, much headway has been made.
Since the original Community Wildfire Protection Plans were written, wildland fires have resulted in catastrophic losses from South Lake Tahoe to Austin, Texas – but there were also successes. In fact, many communities that had taken steps to mitigate fire hazard have been entirely successful. The updated Community Wildfire Protection Plan incorporates the elements common to successful programs from across the country. Its goals are to:
- Create fire-adapted communities: The plan provides mitigation strategies and community-driven action plans to help create communities where citizens are engaged and active in preparing for wildfire. It facilitates interagency cooperation and strengthens communication and support between agencies and the public.
- Restore and maintain fire-resilient landscapes: The plan provides prioritized locations for fuel reduction treatments to enable land managers to effectively work across jurisdictions and address risks to ecosystems and communities at a landscape scale.
- Provide effective and efficient wildfire response: The plan provides strategic treatments on the landscape that will facilitate safer and more successful suppression. This plan provides for tracking, reporting, and sharing of both fuel reduction accomplishments and homeowner/community initiatives.
The TFFT wishes to thank the agencies, fire departments, conservation groups, businesses and others who have helped craft this new plan. But the true debt of gratitude goes to the community members who took time to participate in the development of this plan. While the TFFT is the steward of the plan, it is the community that makes this plan a reality and a viable solution. The updated plan will be made available online at www.trpa.org and www.livingwithfire.info/tahoe and from local fire districts and departments around the Lake Tahoe Basin.
For additional information, contact John Pickett, Forester, Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, at 775-220-7675.
About the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team
The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT) consists of representatives of Tahoe Basin fire agencies, Cal Fire, Nevada Division of Forestry and related state agencies, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the USDA Forest Service, conservation districts from both states, the California Tahoe Conservancy and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. Our Mission is to protect lives, property and the environment within the Lake Tahoe Basin from wildfire by implementing prioritized fuels reduction projects and educating the public on becoming a Fire Adapted Community. For more information, visit www.tahoefft.org.