June 16, 2020 Moonshine Minutes
Ladies and gentlemen, we are officially in fire season.
The Cal Fire ordinance went into effect statewide yesterday, and local fire protection districts followed suit, implementing stricter campfire bans — aka no charcoal grills!
In light of the ban, Moonshine Ink hosted one of its Tahoe Talks yesterday, a community conversation bringing together experts with locals to discuss front-of-mind topics. I’m Alex Hoeft, here with a recap for today’s Moonshine Minutes.
Our biggest takeaway from yesterday’s conversation, titled Fire in the Face of COVID-19, is that despite the coronavirus crisis, preparation for and response to wildfire doesn’t change; we still have to be ready.
But first, the reality of what we’re facing: Did you know last year there were nearly 8,000 wildland fires covering nearly 300,000 acres across California? And that was after a winter way wetter than this last one. As of May 1, 2020, there was 59% of average snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, which means this year we’ll see more significant burning conditions even earlier.
Should there be a wildfire affecting your house, proper evacuation trumps any concerns you and yours might have about COVID-19. Definitely bring a mask, but know that — as Lt. Paul Long with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office puts it — “We can’t guarantee … there’ll be anyone to screen or encourage social distancing [at evacuation centers].”
Set-up for evacuation centers themselves, too, are changing in light of COVID. Mike Romero with Placer’s Health and Human Services said he connected with the Red Cross over the weekend.
“Their goal is to not use congregate settings [for evacuation], but in fact to put people in hotels. That’s new for the Red Cross, it changes the way they do business. They’re [also] looking at changes in, for example, food distribution. They’re going to distribute pre-packaged food.”
Fire agencies have stayed busy in keeping the Tahoe Basin ready for a wildfire emergency. Since the 2007 Angora Fire, there’ve been over 40,000 defensible space inspections in the Basin, and last year, North Tahoe Fire performed 2,000 of those alone.
The fire protection districts are focusing their efforts on four key areas:
- Reducing fuel on large pieces of land
- Doubling down on defensible space
- Encouraging participation in Firewise communities
- Abiding by the campfire ban
That last one — the campfire ban — doesn’t have a long history, but the numbers are encouraging: In Truckee in 2018, there were 15 escaped campfires in the fire district; in 2019, after the burn ban was implemented in Truckee, there were only 3. That same burn ban has been adopted by neighboring districts.
And on fire insurance, ever a hot topic, Placer County District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson said it’s a challenge she’s hard at work on, coordinating with the state insurance commissioner and California’s legislature to find appropriate solutions for all.
You can find our recap of this Tahoe Talks, as well as the full video recording, at moonshineink.com/tahoe-talks. There is also a useful list of links to help you as a resident or even a visitor to prepare for a catastrophic wildfire.