Preparing for inevitable Lake Tahoe fire

The Lake Tahoe basin absolutely needs a broad and efficient plan to save lives and property in the event of a wildfire there, but we're not sure the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency should ultimately be the organization responsible for overseeing it.

The chance of a wildfire in forests around the lake is pretty much 100 percent. The Waterfall fire in Carson City and the Gondola fire in 2002 at South Lake Tahoe were frightening reminders to residents in the basin.

The real question is just how devastating such a fire might be. And common sense tells us it could be both ruinous and tragic. The fact there are so many high-dollar properties at Lake Tahoe is one thing; the fact there are few ways for people to escape a major wildfire there is quite another.

The call this week by a committee of the Nevada Legislature to get cracking on a disaster plan should be quickly heeded. TRPA director John Singlaub was given the task of finding out who could create such a plan and how much it would cost.

TRPA and Singlaub were a logical choice, given his background with the Bureau of Land Management and the agency's role as overseer of the Lake Tahoe basin. But carrying out such a plan isn't exactly the TRPA's bailiwick.

While the agency has its fingers in issues large and small, its mission and domain are protection of the Lake Tahoe environment (including the human inhabitants). Disaster planning, emergency response and evacuation routes are outside its charge.

The Sierra Forest Fire Protection District is a cooperative group on the Nevada side that already works with the BLM and Forest Service. Include the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the region is covered.

We're also not sure why the process should require a consultant. There is much forest-fire expertise available in these organizations, and all of them already have put a great deal of work into creating their own fire contingency plans.

Someone needs to pull those together - soon - and what could possibly be a higher priority for these government agencies?

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