One of our web polls this week asked, “Should the TRPA be held accountable for the homes destroyed in the Angora Fire?” We received many thoughtful comments and would like to share them with all of you for discussion. Take a look and add a comment yourself.
The people that live in wooded areas have to know they are at higher risk of fire and its damages. Why should we hold the planners liable ??? It is our responsibility to clear and keep our homes safe from fires....
I am not familiar with the requirements in the California part of the lake but here in Incline Village, (I have been a resident and homeowner for 37 years), we have repeatedly been informed thaat we must comply with BMP's (Best Management Practices)in order to protect the lake clarity from siltration due to erosion by covering all exposed ground with 3-5 inches of pine needles or gravel.
Gravel will trap pine needles even when regularly raked and lead the fire right up to a house. Pine needles are highly flammable and will do the same. True, they do reccommend using the "duff" layer of longterm compacted and half rotted underlying pine needles but when these have been cleaned up long ago in order to create defensable space, they require pine needles, wood chip or gravel be used. I have created defensible space around my home for the last 30 years because of the fire hazard. Where I have notices early signs of erosion, I have built retaining walls of native rock and installed french drains and 3 foot deep gravel infiltration trenches.
However the media still keeps publishing articles in the local paper of BMP requirements and the fact that so many of us are not in compliance due to the fact that we have raked up all pine needles and have not covered all open ground.
A few years ago storm drains were installed throughout Incline. All contaminants, (sand from the road department, oil and gas spills and anything else that is on our streets is washed with the snowmelt into the storm drains and deposited directly into Lake Tahoe. I think that this is an obvious source of siltration and polution contributing to loss of Lake Tahoe clarity. I don't think the BMP requirement for coverage of all open ground is and I think this requirement is a direct contributor to the fire hazard in the Tahoe basin area.
For obvious reasons I would like to not use my name or my husbands name on this communication. It would only result in the authorities showing up and fining us for not being in compliance with current BMP requirements. Hopefully you can use this information to publicly shed some light on this source of fire hazard which may have been a major contributor to the Angora fire tragedy.
I've answered no to the question because at this point all we have is rumor and conjecture without the facts needed to make such a decision. We have a lot of emotion and rumor and making decisions based on that is tantamount to mob rule.
I do believe that an independent review or investigation by an outside investigation team made up of people with the qualifications necessary to evaluate the events that occurred before and during the Angora Fire. The qualifications should include knowledge and experience in fuels and vegetation management, fire behavior, fire suppression, soils, and forestry. If changes in policies and procedures need to be made by any agency, whether that be the TRPA, U.S. Forest Service, El Dorado County, the city of South Lake Tahoe, if those homes are inside the city limits of that city. These changes should be based on the facts gathered in a thorough investigation with no political pressure or or influence being placed on members of the team.
That investigation should be fully accessible to the public once it is finished. Should there be sufficient information in that report and in facts gathered from other sources, then it is up to a court of law to determine if the TRPA or any of the other agencies should be held accountable for this loss of property.
I am a retired U.S. Forest Service employee, a graduate forester, worked on 108 wildland fires in my career, was qualified as a claims and accident investigator, and gained a significant amount of knowledge and experience in managing liability and in responding to tort claims brought by citizens against the federal government. The experience included several hours of being on the witness stand in federal district court in Reno. A few of the fires I worked on resulted in the loss of homes and I have worked with people who lost their homes in wildfires. I have lost a classmate and a cousin to fire fighting as well as fellow agency employees who were fighting a wildfire, not because of high resource values but because of subdivisions built in a wildland setting that consisted of very dangerous fuels with a history of frequent burning.
On another subject it was interesting to see the story on the law offices of Larry H. Parker targeting advertising to those who experienced propety loss as a result of the Angora Fire. Particularly interesting was the discussion on the ethics of such advertising. I could not help noticing that later in the newscast that KOLO ran the same commercials, thus generating some income for the station in doing so. This could be looked at as ironic or incongruous, perhaps.