TRPA is a member of the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team and actively supports not only forest fuel reduction projects, but also homeowner defensible space. Every property owner in the Tahoe Basin can and should complete defensible space prescriptions and TRPA supports tree removal by streamlining the permit process and training and certifying local fire agency inspectors to mark trees for removal as well.
The agency works with fire districts to ensure tree removal for defensible space does not require involvement from TRPA in all but a few cases. Trees measuring 14” diameter at breast height (dbh) can be removed without a permit or defensible space inspection. This diameter was set in consultation with forestry and fire professionals who helped determined that most of the problem trees in the Tahoe Basin are 14” or smaller. Larger trees can be marked for removal by forestry officials, fire districts, and defensible space inspectors without a TRPA permit. In rare cases, the fire districts will ask property owners to consult with TRPA. If your property is within a sensitive stream zone or along the shoreline of Lake Tahoe, consult with TRPA inspectors before beginning the work.
TRPA especially encourages home hardening projects like replacing wood shake roofs to protect structures from falling embers during a wildfire. Home improvements like re-roofing and replacing deck and siding materials do not require a TRPA permit. Rebates may be available in some locations to help property owners harden their homes and some insurance companies have offered better premiums for homeowners in a certified Firewise community. In the Caldor Fire, firefighters witnessed homes that had participated in a rebate program withstand a shower of flaming embers even as the forest nearby ignited. Check with your local fire protection district or department about rebate programs, curbside chipping services, and to get a free defensible space inspection. If your property is visible from Lake Tahoe, consult with TRPA planners on the reflective qualities of your roofing material.
Pine needles and other burnable material should be cleared away from structures and should not be allowed to build up within defensible space zones or on roofs, gutters, or other structures. TRPA encourages property owners to rake their pine needles in accordance with defensible space recommendations. Follow these 5 Steps to Creating an Effective Defensible Space.
Living and recreating in a forested mountain community like Lake Tahoe comes with some responsibilities. Home hardening, defensible space, and evacuation readiness help make our communities safer. We must adapt and learn to live with fire to reduce the threat that catastrophic wildfire poses to lives, properties, and to Lake Tahoe’s irreplaceable environment.