As a reminder, in 2019 Tahoe Donner was awarded Firewise Community® of the Year by the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County for our dedication and energy to make its community safer from wildfire.
Practicing good defensible space is an important part of being a property owner in Tahoe Donner. US Forest Service records show that, over the last 35 years, over 150 fires burned in or within a two-mile radius of Tahoe Donner.
One of the goals of the Forestry Department is to help property owners bring their properties into compliance with state, local and association fire safety standards. Work completed by individual property owners is key to keeping Tahoe Donner safe from wildfire. Defensible space is an on-going project and requires maintenance on a yearly basis for properties to remain in compliance.
In 2007, the Tahoe Donner Board of Directors adopted a four-year program to inspect all properties, both developed and undeveloped, in the association. The four-year program was completed in 2011.
The Forestry Department has now implemented a six-year program. If any deficiencies are reported, owners will be given 45 days to correct them. Following is a checklist of fire safety items for around your home. You can also view the California State Guidelines for Defensible Space (pdf) and the Ready Set Go campaign from Cal Fire.
- Pine needles must be removed from the roof of all structures
- Pine needles on the ground must be removed within 10 feet of all structures
- Limbs and branches must be removed from within 10 feet of the chimney, roof and eaves
- Any tree branch extending horizontally and vertically towards the structure within 10 feet of roofs shall be removed.
- Chimney must have an approved spark arrestor
- Ten feet of clearance required around the propane tank
- Firewood and lumber must be stacked 30 feet away from the residence by law. However, firewood may be stacked next to or within 30 feet of a structure if it is completely covered with a high-quality heavy tarp. Old, unused or decomposed (nuisance) firewood must be removed. Firewood rounds cannot be left on the property. The wood must be split and stacked neatly. Wood may not be stacked on a vacant lot.
- The address of the residence must be clearly visible
- All dry, flammable vegetation and woody debris between 1/2 inch and 12 inches in diameter must be removed
- Dead and/or beetle-infested trees must be removed
- Areas of contiguous brush must be broken-up
- Excessively dense tree cover must be thinned
- Remove the lower branches, six feet from the ground, from the lowest point of the branch, on trees over 12 feet tall. On shorter trees, remove the lower branches to 1/3 the height of the tree
- For any tree(s) removed from the property, the maximum stump height shall be as low as practical, but maximum stump height shall not exceed 2 inches for trees less than 12 inches in diameter and 12 inches for trees greater than 12 inches in diameter
- All dead plants or grasses cut to a height of six inches or less
Protecting the Forest
In addition to protecting your home, defensible space is also about improving the health of the forest to reduce the threat of fire. The forestry department works to create a healthy forest on the common areas of Tahoe Donner. This is done by:
- Creating and maintaining fuel reduction zones in strategic areas
- Removing brush and planting trees to establish a forest on the landscape
- Masticating (mowing) brush from around trees to increase the growth of the forest, change the arrangement of fuels and remove ladder fuels (fuels which provide vertical continuity allowing fire to spread up into tree crowns)
- Creating a mosaic of practices to lessen the impacts to the human eye and encourage different wildlife species
- Thinning dense forest stands through commercial logging operations or by hand crews
- Maintaining the seasonal road system in the western portion of Tahoe Donner to lessen erosion and allow access by firefighting crews