Foothill resident protests new fire requirements

Gardnerville Tender 2 rolls with lights and sirens toward a fire burning in the Pine Nuts in June 2020.

Gardnerville Tender 2 rolls with lights and sirens toward a fire burning in the Pine Nuts in June 2020.
Photo by Kurt Hildebrand.

Nearly two years after repealing interior sprinklers, Douglas County commissioners adopted construction code requirements that include requirements already adopted by both fire districts, including wildland-urban interface regulations.

Until recently, the regulations only applied to construction in the Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, but East Fork approved similar regulations last year that require construction more than 1,000 feet from a hydrant to provide some sort of water supply.

The county code reinforced that requirement.

With the March 21 approval, anyone undertaking projects in the interface has three options, including installing residential sprinklers, installation of a water tank and fire alarm or pay a one-time fee to pay for water transport to locations in the interface.

On commissioners’ Thursday consent agenda, there’s a proposed memorandum of understanding between the county’s community development department and the two fire districts to "ensure effective collaboration of services, application and plan reviews, permitting, inspections and code compliance.”

Wildland-urban interface regulations are included in Nevada’s fire code, in addition to at least a dozen other Western states.

The fees were approved to provide for homes located too far from a water source would require a tender.

Last week, a shed fire at the top of Stephanie Way required three tenders because there were no hydrants.

The new regulations took effect on July 1, 2023, which was news to Jim Richardson, who found out recently after he wanted to build a new garage on his property located off Foothill Road.

Richardson said that he decided to build a new garage that didn’t require two flights of stairs to access.

His engineer and contractor told him that because he was more than 1,000 feet from a hydrant he would be required to install a sprinkler system or in the alternative pay $5,000 to contribute to purchasing a water tender.

Richardson is a retired Douglas County Sheriff’s deputy, but he said in a letter appearing in today’s edition of The R-C that requiring either a sprinkler system or the fee feels like “protection money.”

“I do feel this required fee in case you need a fire truck ‘sometime in the future” is a misuse of authority, an attempt to pad the East Fork Fire coffers and intimidate the public.”

Specific to the fire district, which covers all of Douglas County outside of the Lake Tahoe Basin, the regulations include establishing water supplies and building construction.

Determination of where the interface is located is based on the Nevada Division of Forestry online map that shows regional risk categories.


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