Tahoe Wildfire Preparedness Guide 2022

As California and Nevada continue to face extreme drought conditions, in early May the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team released its 2022 Wildfire Outlook warning of “above-normal significant fire activity” for June and July. The report was released on May 3, the same day a small wildfire broke out at Rabe Meadows at Stateline. It was quickly extinguished, but it could have been so much worse.

The lesson here is be prepared. Have your Go Bag ready (including for your pets), know how and where to evacuate to, do your defensible space now. To help, download our 2nd annual Tahoe Wildfire Preparedness Guide.

Save it, use the checklists, download it, share it online, share it with your neighbors (locals and second homeowners) and send it to your friends.

Many thanks for our sponsors of the guide. Without their financial support, we wouldn’t have been able to include so much information in this edition. As always, please support our sponsors and clients in turn by visiting their businesses and saying Thank You. Tell them Tahoe Weekly sent you.

Does Your Home Have Defensible Space?

~ Courtesy TRPA

If a wildfire breaks out, will firefighters be able to save your home? Having defensible space around your home will mean the difference between whether firefighters can save your home or not.

The term defensible space refers to the area between a house and an oncoming wildfire where the vegetation has been managed to reduce the wildfire threat and allow firefighters to safely defend the house. In the event that firefighters are not available, defensible space also improves the likelihood of a home surviving without assistance.

Courtesy UNR Cooperative Extension

Defensible Space Zone
The size of the defensible space is usually expressed as a distance extending outward from the house in all directions. The recommended distance is not the same for every home. It varies depending on the dominant vegetation surrounding the home and steepness of slope.

Once the recommended distance for defensible space is known, mark it by tying strips of cloth or flagging to shrubs. This becomes the Defensible Space Zone.

If the Defensible Space Zone exceeds your property boundaries, talk to neighbors about creating defensible space and offer to help with the work. It is important to note that the effectiveness of the Defensible Space Zone improves when entire neighborhoods implement defensible space practices.

Remove dead vegetation, debris
Remove dead and dying vegetation including:
• Dead and dying trees.
• Dead native and ornamental shrubs.
• Dead branches.
• Dried grass, weeds and flowers
• Exposed branches from fallen trees that are embedded into the ground.

For fallen pine needles and leaves:
• Within 5 feet of the house, remove routinely throughout fire season
• From 5 feet to 30 feet of the house, remove every spring.
• More than 30 feet from the house, do not allow fallen needles and leaves to exceed a depth of 3 inches.

Thin native vegetation
Within the Defensible Space Zone, native trees and shrubs (Jeffrey pine, white fir and manzanita) should not occur in dense stands. Dense stands of trees and shrubs pose a significant wildfire threat.

Within 30 feet of the house, the canopies of individual or small groups of several trees should be separated by 10 feet to 30 feet. Contact local fire professionals or TRPA to have trees evaluated and marked for removal.

Remove ladder fuel
Vegetation that can carry a fire from low-growing plants to taller plants is called ladder fuel. In areas where trees have been thinned as noted above, lower tree branches should be removed to a height of at least 10 feet. Shrubs and trees growing under the drip line should also be removed.

Irrigated, well-maintained lawns and flower beds, as well as low-growing ground covers can be present under the tree’s drip line if it would not allow a fire to ignite the tree. Removal of tree branches should not exceed one third of the total tree height. Removing more than this can be detrimental to tree health. For tips on proper tree pruning, contact a Cooperative Extension office.

Lean, Clean and Green Area
Create a Lean, Clean and Green Area extending 5 to 30 feet from the house. The first goal is to eliminate easily ignitable fuels, or kindling, near the house. This will help prevent embers from starting a fire in a yard. The second goal is to keep fire intensity low if it does ignite near the house.

• Remove dead and drying vegetation and debris regularly.
• Wood and bark mulches can be used in this area, but not in a widespread manner and areas should separated by noncombustible materials.
• Native shrubs should be substantially reduced in this area. Individual specimens or small groups can be retained as long as they are kept healthy and vigorous, pruned and would not allow a fire to travel rapidly across the area.
• Use low-growing (less than 18 inches tall), irrigated, herbaceous plants, such as lawn, clover, erosion-control grasses, flowers, some ground covers and succulents, that are recommended for the area.
• Ornamental, deciduous trees and shrubs can be used as specimens or in small groups. They should be irrigated, kept healthy and vigorous, free of dead leaves and wood, and arranged so that they could not rapidly transmit fire.
• Ornamental evergreen shrubs and trees such as juniper, mugo pine, Austrian pine and others, should not be used within this area.
• Clear all flammable vegetation from within 10 feet of a propane tank.
• Remove tree limbs that are within 10 feet of a chimney, house, deck and roof. Remove

limbs that are encroaching on power lines.

Noncombustible Area
Create a Noncombustible Area at least 5 feet wide around the base of the house. It should consist of noncombustible landscape materials and ignition-resistant, low-volume plants.

Maintain Defensible Space Zone
Maintaining a defensible space is an ongoing activity. Plants grow back and flammable vegetation needs to be routinely removed and disposed of properly. | trpa.gov

Defensible Space Resources

Prepare a Wildfire Go Bag

~ Courtesy Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team & Cal Fire

If you were told to get ready for an evacuation or to evacuate immediately, do you have a Go Bag of essential items ready? If not, there’s no better time than right now to put yours together.

A Go Bag should be prepared before an emergency, be easily accessible and filled with at least a three-day supply of items needed to help you quickly and safely evacuate your home.

Essentials include:

  • Clothing & personal toiletries
  • Face masks or coverings
  • Inventory of home contents & photographs/videotape of the house & landscape
  • An inventory checklist from your insurance agent
  • Flashlight, portable radio tuned to an emergency radio station & extra batteries changed annually
  • Extra set of car & house keys
  • Contact information for family, friends & physicians
  • Cash & extra credit cards
  • Medications & prescription glasses
  • Water & non-perishable food
  • First-Aid kit
  • Pack a Pet Go Bag for each pet (see below)
  • Important records – passports, birth certificates, titles, medical records, etc.
  • Electronic chargers
  • Paper map marked with Evacuation Routes (especially if you don’t live here full time)

Other items to pack:

  • Hand sanitizer/wipes
  • Books & magazines
  • Games, cards & toys
  • Trash bags
  • Rain poncho
  • Blankets
  • Laundry detergent
  • Rubber gloves
  • Sleeping bag & tent
  • Family heirlooms & photos
  • Computers & hard drives

Prepare a Pet Go Bag

  • Pack several days of food, water & prescriptions for each pet along with:
  • Leashes, harnesses & collars
  • Toys & blankets
  • Litter box, litter & scoop for cats
  • Doggie bags
  • Treats

Always keep a sturdy pair of shoes and a flashlight near your bed and handy in case of a sudden evacuation at night.

Free Pet Go Bags
Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe is planning a Pet Go Bag distribution to residents. Date TBA. | hstt.org

Evacuation Routes & Emergency Preparedness Guides

Alpine County | alpinecountyca.gov

Incline Village & Crystal Bay | nltfpd.org

North Lake Tahoe & West Shore | bit.ly/3CRDgtG

Olympic Valley | ovpsd.org

South Lake Tahoe area | southtahoeemergencyguide.com

Tahoe Donner | tahoedonner.com

Truckee | truckeefire.org

Hard copies available at local fire districts

Sign up for emergency alerts

Alpine County | alpinecountyca.gov
City of South Lake Tahoe | cityofslt.us
Douglas County | douglascountynv.gov
El Dorado County | ready.edso.org
Nevada County | mynevadacounty.com
Placer County | placer.ca.gov
Town of Truckee | truckeepolice.com
Washoe County | washoecounty.gov

Understand fire warnings, Red Flags

~ From Tahoe Network of Fire Adapted Communities

One of the first steps to being prepared for a wildfire is to understand what wildfire warnings and alerts mean.

Issued by different agencies, sometimes wildfire alert terminology can be confusing. Do you know the difference between a Fire Weather Watch and a Red Flag Warning? What about the difference between an evacuation warning and an evacuation order?

Red Flag Warning
The National Weather Service issues Red Flag Warnings during weather conditions that could lead to extreme fire behavior within the next 24 hours.

Such conditions include high and sustained wind speeds (averaging 15 mph or greater), low relative humidity (25 percent or less) and temperatures greater than 75 degrees.

During these events, extreme caution is advised. All sources of outdoor flames are prohibited during Red Flag days, including propane and charcoal.

Fire Weather Watch
The National Weather Service issues a Fire Weather Watch 12 to 72 hours in advance of hazardous weather conditions. It means critical fire weather is possible but not imminent or occurring. The watch remains in effect until it expires, is canceled, or upgraded to a Red Flag Warning.

Both Red Flag Warnings and Fire Weather Watches call for extreme caution. Stay up to date with local fire district’s seasonal restrictions and never use fire when and where it’s not allowed.

Wildfire Evacuation Alerts
If a wildfire ignited during a Red Flag Warning or a Fire Weather Watch, you should know the correct evacuation terminology in case the fire is life-threatening.

Issued by local law enforcement, evacuation orders and evacuation warnings both suggest a threat to life and property, although they are slightly different.

Evacuation Order | An evacuation order is mandatory. It suggests there is an immediate threat to life, and it is a lawful order to leave. When this type of order is issued, everyone in the given evacuation zone must exit as the zone will be legally closed to the public until further notice.

Never ignore an evacuation order. Doing so puts not only your life at risk, but also the lives of law enforcement and fire personnel.

Evacuation Warning | An evacuation warning suggests a potential threat to life. Evacuation isn’t mandatory at this point, although it is advised and preparation is necessary.

Those who require additional time to evacuate (such as elderly, disabled and large families with pets and livestock) should leave during a warning. In many instances, evacuation warnings quickly become evacuation orders. | tahoelivingwithfire.com


  • Check current fire conditions & Red Flag warnings
  • Find fire districts around Lake Tahoe
  • Find tips for being prepared

Wildfire Home Retrofit Guide

~ Courtesy Tahoe Resource Conservation District

A team of California and Nevada scientists and practitioners has published the Wildfire Home Retrofit Guide, available for free download, with recommendations to retrofit homes.

During a wildfire, 60 to 90 percent of home loss is due to embers. Depending on a fire’s intensity and wind speed, embers can travel more than a mile ahead of a flame front. Thus, even a home blocks away from a fire can be at risk of ignition.

The Wildfire Home Retrofit Guide recommends a coupled approach that considers both the vegetation surrounding a home and the home’s construction materials. It includes recommendations for ember-vulnerable components of a home including roofs, rain gutters, eaves, vents, siding, skylights, windows, decks, chimneys and fences. These recommendations range from routine maintenance (removing pine needles from roofs and gutters), to DIY projects (installing 1/8th-inch metal mesh screening to vents), to full retrofits (replacing a wood-shake roof). | tahoelivingwithfire.com

Tips for surviving a wildfire if you’re trapped

~ Courtesy Cal Fire

In a vehicle

  • Stay calm.
  • Park your vehicle in an area clear of vegetation.
  • Close all vehicle windows & vents.
  • Cover yourself with wool blanket or jacket.
  • Lie on vehicle floor.
  • Call 911.

On foot

  • Stay calm.
  • Go to an area clear of vegetation, a ditch or depression on level ground if possible.
  • Lie face down, cover up your body.
  • Call 911.

At home

  • Stay calm, keep your family together.
  • Call 911 & inform authorities of your location.
  • Fill sinks & tubs with cold water.
  • Keep doors and windows closed but unlocked.
  • Stay inside your house.
  • Stay away from outside walls & windows.

Is Your Home Ready for a Disaster?

~ Courtesy Cal Fire and FEMA

Preparing your home for a natural disaster or fire, includes checking that your insurance coverage is adequate and creating an up-to-date home inventory. Keep a copy of your home inventory in a firebox and with your Go Bag.

Check insurance coverage
Check your policy limits and coverage annually and make sure the policy reflects the correct square footage, features in the home and any recent improvements. Consider purchasing building code upgrade coverage. Keep a list of insurance contacts and policy details in your Go Bag.

What’s covered | The details matter. Understand if you have a replacement cost policy that pays to replace all your items at current market price or an actual cash value policy that takes depreciation into account and pays less for aged items.

Home improvements | If you make home improvements, be sure to update your coverage including for new countertops, floors, etc.

Maintain insurance | If your home is paid off, be sure to maintain homeowner’s insurance. Without insurance, you likely won’t have the funds to rebuild.

Renters insurance | Renters can lose everything in a fire and be left to start over. Many insurers bundle coverage with an auto insurance policy at affordable prices.

Prepare a home inventory
Filing insurance claims will be easier if you have an accurate home inventory by documenting the contents of your home. Use a smartphone to make a video of your belongings, including vehicles and equipment. Keep the inventory and photos outside the home or stored in the cloud.

Make an inventory | Video or photograph each room of the home. Remember to document drawers and closets. Don’t forget the garage and sheds. Download a Home Inventory Checklist from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners or download the app to make one on a phone.

Document value | Keep a record or video of prices of items and where and when you purchased them. Make note of important or expensive items like electronics, appliances, sports equipment, TVs, computers, jewelry, etc.

Save receipts | Save receipts for all major purchases and store in the cloud or a fireproof case. | ready.gov/plan, readyforwildfire.org

Download a Home Inventory Checklist | naic.org

Prepare Your Family for a Wildfire

~ Courtesy Tahoe Fire & Fuels Team & Cal Fire

Residents and visitors need to be prepared to evacuate in the event of an emergency. Take the time to prepare a wildfire action plan and use this checklist to prepare your family and home.

Wildfire Action Plan

  • Meet with household members. Explain dangers to children & work as a team to prepare.
  • Discuss what to do about power outages & personal injuries.
  • Post emergency phone numbers near phones (cell service may be down in an emergency)
  • Learn how to turn off the water, gas & electricity.
  • Select a safe meeting point in case you are separated.
  • Complete a family communications plan that includes contact information for family members, work & school.
  • Teach children how to make phone calls.
  • Complete an inventory of home contents & photograph/video the house & landscape. Place files in your Go Bag & store a second copy elsewhere.
  • Identify escape routes & safe places. Draw an escape plan highlighting two routes out of each room. Be sure everyone in your family knows them.
  • Prepare an EVACUATED sign. Select a site to post signs where they will be clearly visible from the street.
  • Prepare to address the special needs of vulnerable populations, including the elderly & people with medical problems or disabilities.
  • If the family member is dependent upon medications, equipment or has special dietary needs, plan to bring those items with you. Documentation about insurance & medical conditions should also accompany the person.
  • Plan transportation in advance for anyone with special needs.
  • Make sure dogs & cats wear properly fitted collars with identification, vaccination, microchip & license tags.

Follow the Six Ps for immediate evacuations

  • People & pets
  • Papers, phone numbers & important documents
  • Prescriptions, vitamins & eyeglasses
  • Pictures & irreplaceable memorabilia
  • Personal computer hard drive & disks
  • Plastic (credit cards, ATM cards) & cash

Wildfire Evacuation