You can't be too prepared for fire; disaster action classes forming

Usually this time of year we would be hearing about how we are getting ready to enter fire season but this past year we have had no break from brush fires. That means we need to be especially careful in maintaining the defensible space around our homes and properties. According to the guidelines in the Tahoe Douglas Fire District brochures, minimum defensible space is 30 feet out from all sides of the home; but sloping properties require much more: up to 200 feet. Visit and click on the defensible space link found in the section titled Fire Prevention.

Another part of this plan is in following the Douglas County code regulations. According to Code Enforcement Officer Jay Hoogestraat, "residential properties should maintain a 15-foot perimeter around the main home as well as any outbuildings, such as barns, hay storage, sheds, etc. You can't have piles of combustible vegetation on your property. This means the dead and dying vegetation should be cut down, dug up, removed from the property."

Another factor is the winds that are common to the Valley. They are definitely the proverbial two-edged sword - cooling us during the hot months while at the same time driving the flames in unpredictable paths and often at breathtaking speed.

On this subject, Jay said, "Regardless of the origin of the debris (i.e. plastic or paper trash, branches, tumbleweeds, etc.) the homeowner, or renter, is responsible for keeping their property cleared of the combustibles. Basically if it ends up on your property, it's yours; and it becomes your responsibility to get rid of it."

There are many choices to consider when landscaping your property - aesthetics, color, personal taste. In our beautiful neighborhood and Valley, we also have to consider the burn factor of the plants and trees that we plant.

"Most of the time people think that if something is green it won't burn, but the juniper is a very green tree that burns quick and hot. Property owners need to maintain their property in a manner that complements their surroundings (i.e. the neighborhood and neighboring homes)," said Hoogestrat.

The transfer station on Pinenut Road is taking computer monitors and televisions for no additional charge, just the weight charge (which is very nominal). Most of the auto parts stores take car batteries for free and the recycling center next door to the transfer station also takes them, he added.

For more information visit By clicking on Douglas County, a chart comes up that shows hours and phone numbers as well as the materials accepted and any fees involved. For those who don't have access to the Internet, you can call 782-5713. Using the facilities available will help keep our open spaces clear of these potential fire hazards. Dumping unwanted items such as large appliances, batteries and furniture on vacant lots creates many dangers in the event of a fire.

In preparing for a potential disaster, we can all work together - either doing our part in keeping our homes and neighborhoods as clear of debris as possible or on a larger scale. When fires strike and people are affected, the American Red Cross is there to help with basic needs while the family tries to rebuild their life.

As the Disaster Action Team Leader for Douglas County, I would like to ask for your help in building a team of volunteers ready to help in the event of a local disaster, whether that is a single family home or a large fire like the Waterfall fire a few years ago. We are going to be holding training classes for those interested on April 28 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a 30-minute break for lunch. Training for Mass Care will give an overview of what happens when a shelter is opened to those displaced by a major disaster. Disaster Assessment will offer basic information on how to help the individuals affected by a single family disaster. When a disaster happens, people come in droves to help. By attending these classes, the efficiency and speed with which we can help those affected will be greatly increased because there will be more people who have knowledge of the procedures who can then help train those who offer to help in the moment. If the only lesson learned from Hurricane Katrina was the value of preparedness, we can build on that so, hopefully, the same mistakes are not repeated. If you are interested or would like more information, please call me at 265-1947.

Have a ramblin' good week!

-- To reach Gail Davis, e-mail or call 265-1947.


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