As I sit here today, smoke pouring through my windows and ash falling on my roof from the numerous wild fires it occurred to me that Fire Safety and Defensible Space are everybody’s responsibility. The Truckee Fire District, charged with responding to fires in our community, is responsible for 116 square miles. In the event of a major fire event it is naïve to think they can be everywhere at once. What makes us think they can save ‘our’ home especially if we haven’t take action to build a defensible space. We need to take major responsibility for our own defense. It’s not only a good idea, it’s the law.

Although there has already been organized burnable debris removal in my neighborhood, with good participation, it is not enough. I am appalled and fearful due to the number of residents in my own neighborhood alone who still refuse to take action to build defensible space. There are all kinds of reasons why folks won’t make the effort; unaware, denial, irresponsibility, fatalism, cost, disposal, lack of understanding, ‘don’t wanna cut any trees,’ absentee owners; the list goes on.

There are so many things residents can do by simply taking the first step. Get an assessment from the Truckee Fire Department. It is free. Or you can go to the Fire District website at truckeefire.org and click on Safety Information and then click on Defensible Space and then click on Inspection Forms to download a self- assessment form. If you live on the North Shore area of Lake Tahoe you can call 530-546-4347 for free chipping and 530-546-2212 for a free defensible space inspection of your developed lot. You may also check out services on NTFire.net. If you live in Meeks Bay, the number to call is 530-525-7548. In any case, I urge you all to take a look at the Living With Fire website at livingwithfire.info/tahoe.

There are many critical tips for keeping you and your property safe.

Also, here are a few simple steps you can take that cost nothing, take little effort and could save your home:
• Move burnable material away from your home and from under your decks.
• Clear no less than 30 feet from your home including woodpiles. (Legislation requires 100 feet and at some point may be aggressively enforced.)
• Close your windows when you are going to be away (this can help keep sparks from getting inside your home).
• Remove flammable materials from your decks, i.e. umbrellas, chair cushions, doghouses (you get the idea).
• Take advantage of the free chipping service offered by your local fire district. (Note that North Tahoe Fire is receiving a lot of requests this season, so the wait time is about four to six weeks.)

We can be assured that if we don’t take voluntary action to clean up, some agency is going to come along and insist that we do it. There is already legislation in place that requires us to take action. Further, our insurance companies are going to refuse to insure us. This has already happened to some homeowners in Tahoe Donner. Who is next?

If you think a wildfire cannot happen here, think again. It can. Burning debris from fires miles away can be carried by the wind and end up in our neighborhoods. We can either be prepared or we can whine about it later when it is too late.

I am urging all of us to take action to protect not only ourselves but our neighbors as well. Don’t wait and take a leisurely approach to Fire Safety. Our indefensible home could ignite our neighbor’s home even though they took all the precautions. I can assure you from personal experience that wildfires don’t wait for you to take action.

Fire Prevention is everybody’s business.

~ Lynne Larson, Truckee