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Residential Warming Fires & Restrictions During Fire Season

 On Monday, May 10, 2021, Cal Fire's Amador-El Dorado Unit (AEU) suspended burn permits for the season (Cal Fire's Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit (NYP or NEU) followed suit on May 24th), resulting in full suspension of residential burn permits in the Tahoe Basin. These are the triggers that prompt Meeks Bay Fire Protection District (MBFPD), North Tahoe Fire Protection District (NTFPD), and Alpine Springs County Water District (ASCWD) to activate local fire restrictions by suspending all solid fuel, recreational fires, and open burning. The suspension will remain in effect through the remainder of the fire season.

Following the adoption of the 2019 Fire Code, ONLY Natural Gas (NG) or Liquid Propane Gas (LPG), outdoor firepits and barbecues, and pellet grills/smokers are allowed year-round, except during Red Flag/critical fire weather conditions. All of these appliances must be utilized following manufacturers' recommendations. Open-flame devices, such as tiki torches and all fireworks, including sparklers and firecrackers, are illegal on the California side of the Lake Tahoe basin year-round. For reports of hazardous/illegal campfires, please call 9-1-1. Illegal firework activity should be reported to local law enforcement.

"Timber vegetation is already at summer dryness levels. Above normal, fire activity is projected in the Sierra and Tahoe regions this summer and likely into the fall,' said MBFPD/NTFPD Fire Chief Steve Leighton. "We saw the devastation that fires have created in California in recent years, and we ask our residents and visitors to follow our fire restrictions to protect this precious area that is under severe drought."

All sources of open flames, including NG and LPG outdoor firepits and barbecues, and pellet grills/smokers are prohibited during Red Flag/critical fire weather conditions. Red Flag Watches and Warmings of critical fire weather in the Lake Tahoe basin are issued by National Weather Service, Reno (NWS). "The National Weather Service will issue a Fire Weather Watch roughly 3-5 days in advance of critical fire weather conditions, including strong winds and low humidity," said Chris Smallcomb, NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist/Public Information Officer (PIO). "Once confidence levels are high enough, this [Fire Weather Watch]  is upgraded to a Red Flag Warning, usually 1-3 days in advance. Our fire service partners use the alerts to help guide staffing and resource decisions, not just locally but over regional and multi-state areas."

MBFPD and NTFPD ask residents to prepare for wildfire by maintaining a minimum of 100 feet of defensible space around every structure. "It is essential for residents to effectively maintain defensible space to improve their home's chance of survivability from both surface fires and ember showers," said NTFPD Fire Marshal Steve McNamara. "Please sign up for free, defensible space inspections, and free, curbside chipping."

Some tips to help prepare homes and property for wildfire are:

  • Maintain at least five feet free of combustible material around each structure;
  • For a distance of at least 30 feet from the home, keep the area Lean, Clean, and Green;
  • Clear all dead and/or dying vegetation 100 feet from all structures;
  • Landscape with fire-resistant/drought-tolerant plants.
  • Find alternative ways to dispose of landscape debris through chipping or green waste collection opportunities.

For additional information on how to create defensible space, tips to prevent wildfires, and ways to prepare for emergencies and evacuations, visit Tahoe Living With Fire.

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