Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team Year-End Review
LAKE TAHOE, Calif./Nev. – The Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team (TFFT), formed following the devastating 2007 Angora Fire, is a coalition of 21 local, state, federal and tribal land managers working toward the common goal of reducing hazardous fuels throughout the Tahoe Basin and preparing communities for the next wildfire.
“Whether we’re preparing for evacuations, creating defensible space around homes or thinning the surrounding forest, every family, neighborhood and agency stands together in preparing for Tahoe’s next wildfire,” said TFFT Incident Commander, Forest Schafer. “None of us can do it alone, but together we’re improving our odds and making communities safer.”
In 2019, the Tahoe Basin was extremely fortunate to not have experienced any large or damaging wildfires, thanks to a highly-trained suppression force, quick wildfire-response times and recent hazardous fuels reduction work completed by the TFFT partners. However, there were still many close calls as the basin continues to average 40-50 wildfire ignitions annually, mostly due to illegal and unattended campfires. California and Nevada experienced record-breaking fires throughout both states over the last three years, a strong reminder that the threat is still urgent and there is much more work to accomplish.
The TFFT made significant progress in 2019, on their target of completing initial treatments to reduce fire behavior across 100 percent of the Wildland Urban Interface. The team also provided free defensible space inspections and educated thousands of basin residents through the Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities, which helped prepare entire neighborhoods for the next wildfire.
Additionally, the Lake Tahoe West Restoration Partnership (Lake Tahoe West), completed its landscape restoration strategy for treating approximately 60,000 acres on the West Shore, which is a key component in reducing wildfire risk in and around those communities. Lake Tahoe West is now in the beginning of its planning phase to coordinate and complete National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis of the proposed project area.
In 2020, the TFFT expects land managers to double the amount of hazardous fuels reduction treatments completed. To accomplish this, the team aims to plan larger projects and leverage new technology to speed up project planning. Many of the anticipated projects will take place on open-space lots within neighborhoods as part of the TFFT’s “Community Forestry and Fire Protection in the Residential Zone” priority project.
Power lines are an important part of community infrastructure, but can also be a potential source of new ignitions. This year, the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) will begin a new project where land managers and power companies partner to remove hazardous fuels near power lines and conduct thinning operations to improve the health of the surrounding forest on approximately 6,300 acres around the basin. The Liberty Utilities Resilience Corridors Project will help create healthier and more resilient forests, while reducing the risk of wildfires that could ignite either from vegetation coming in contact with utility infrastructure or failures of infrastructure on approximately 55 miles of power lines. NV Energy is also involved in the TFFT proactive effort and is actively attending cooperator meetings.
“The Forest Service is proud to be a part of the incredible partnership between the cooperating groups focused on helping people and communities surrounding the lake,” said LTBMU Forest Fire Management Officer, Carrie Thaler. “Through education, preparation, planning and public involvement, we are committed to protecting the lives, property and environment within the Tahoe Basin from wildfire.”
The TFFT will also work to update the 2015 Lake Tahoe Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which was developed in partnership with basin fire agencies and the communities they serve.
For information on how to prepare your family and home for the next wildfire, view upcoming prescribed fire operations and fuels reduction projects and sign-up for the Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities newsletter, visit https://www.tahoelivingwithfire.com/.
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, University of California and Nevada Cooperative Extensions, 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 engaging the public in becoming a Fire Adapted Community.
For more information about the TFFT, visit https://www.tahoelivingwithfire.com/about/.