Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wildfire Awareness Week

See the full gallery of Wildfire Awareness Week on Google+

The first ever WildFire Awareness Week event drew over 600 spectators to the Montbleu resort Memorial Day weekend.  It fetured baloon rides on the famous Smokey the Bear baloon, making its first ever appearance in Lake Tahoe, as well as firefighter gear demonstrations and representatives from many local, state, and federal agencies.

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Defensible Space

For the individual homeowner, the key thing they can do to protect their home from the risk of being consumed in a catastrophic wildfire is to have good defensible space. reccomends at least 30 feet of non-flammable plants, with a stone drainage between any vegitation and your house and a 100 foot "lean, clean, and green" area around your home if possible.  The TRPA used to reccomend that people leave their pine needles in their yard for water quality, the new reccomendation is to clean the entire defensible space area of all dead material.

Lake Tahoe Master Gardeners has provided a list of plants to be sure to avoid in the 30ft area including:

  • Juniper
  • Spruce
  • Pines and Firs
  • Manzanita
  • Chinquepin
  • Huckleberry Oak

Fire Gear

Structure firefighting and wildland firefighting have very different needs. Structure fires burn hot in confined spaces, so the gear is designed to offer protection against both extreme heat and dense smoke inside a building. 

Wildland firefighting gear has to be lighter.  According to fire marshal Eric Guevin "obviously when we do a  wildland fire, a brush fire, that gear is not practical.  We wouldn't be able to have all that gear on. It's way to heavy, the guys would be exhausted and they wouldn't be able to fight the fire because they'd be physically unable to do that."

He continued, "It's a lot lighter, so they're more agile on the fire line, and yet it affords some protection against fire brands and fire exposure.  So it's designed to keep them a little cooler and a little bit more agile but yet provide for protection." 

Wildland firefighters also have to contend with the weight of carrying a portable fire shelter, a hose, a supply of water, and tools for cutting fire lines and setting backfires.