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S. Lake fire plan ready by June

Gregory Crofton

A wildfire community protection plan for South Lake Tahoe has been in the works since October and should be finished by June.

A $30,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service allowed the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department to hire consultants to come up with the plan. Ultimately, it will call on residents to help identify fire hazards and make their homes more fire safe.

The public is likely to be asked to comment on the plan in May, with the City Council to review it in June, said Ron Coleman, of Citygate Associates, a consulting firm in Folsom, Calif., working on the project.

The plan in part will identify land at highest risk for fire, prioritize fuel- reduction projects, analyze biomass opportunities, study evacuation routes, and emphasize the importance of public outreach and education.

“One of the things we haven’t done well is fire prevention,” Mike Chandler, chief of the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department, told a working group at Saturday’s Lake Tahoe Wildfire Prevention Forum.

“It’s not because we haven’t tried, it’s just the first thing that gets cut once we face a budget crunch,” Chandler added.

About four years ago, firefighters walked door-to-door in South Lake Tahoe to tell homeowners what fire risks were on their property. Chandler said that it is unclear if residents are required by law to comply to recommendations from the fire department so the fire fighters just made an effort to persuade people to get the work done.

“We weren’t always received so well,” Chandler said.

The Tahoe Basin Fire Safe Council formed a year ago and is based at South Lake Tahoe.

The federal government provides money for thinning and other fuels reduction work on private lands through the National Fire Plan. This year, the council has applied for more than $300,000 to fund work on private land. The administrator of the council, Jennifer Arrowsmith, can be reached at (530) 543-1501, ext. 112.

Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at gcrofton@tahoedailytribune.com