The March meeting was attended by 14 people in person. Since no actions were taken there will be no notes for this meeting, only this summary.
The presentation was by CalFire’s Jim McDougald, Assistant Chief for the Home Hardening Program working under the Department’s Community Wildfire Preparedness and Mitigation Division. It was a sobering presentations on how homes ignite during a catastrophic wildfire. While defensible space can partially protect a home from radiant heat and direct flame contact related to vegetation, it doesn’t help much with embers which are the cause of over 60% of the homes lost to catastrophic wildfire. It also doesn’t help when the homeowner or neighbor has flammable sheds, boats, or vehicles etc. too close to the home. In the event of a catastrophic wildfire, a home that has not been hardened is highly unlikely to survive unless there are sufficient suppression forces available onsite. Had the suppression not been present in Markleevillage as the Tamarack Fire approached it is likely that most of the homes would be gone.
This work is based on research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), CalFire, and the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). Their publication First-of-a-Kind Guidance for Holistic Home and Community Wildfire Protection was just published March 1st, and can be found here.
Home hardening is expensive, and it costs an average of about $40,000 to retrofit homes to make them safe in the event of a catastrophic wildfire. CalFire has a pilot program in San Diego and Shasta counties to harden existing homes. Funding depends on the state and federal governments, but the hope is to rapidly expand the program statewide in the next few years.
The entire presentation is available here for the next month or so.
Participant updates: Unfortunately the quality of the audio recording was not good and consequently not all the updates have been completely captured.
Don Hittenmiller reported on his initial discussion with CalFire regarding programs for private forest landowners. Ed DdCarlo’s report was unfortunately inaudible on the recording. Jason Glaze reported that STPUD was working with the Alpine Fire Safe Council on a fuels reduction project on their lands near Diamond Valley Rd. and Hawkside Drive for next spring. Matt Croswait of the BLM reported that they completed reseeding much of their land that was burnt during the Tamarack Fire and seeded approximately 60,000 lbs. of seed by helicopter. The BLM will also be monitoring the success of the program and looking at what else they can do to advance restoration. Chris Anthony of CalFire reminded everyone that there currently is a lot of funding available through CalFire and other state and federal agencies for community fire protection, home hardening, etc. Rachel Kieffer of the Alpine Watershed Group (AWG) reported that the AWG would be hosting the 4th Forum on the West Fork Carson Vision Plan with emphasis on ranching Tuesday Mar. 8th at 5:30 pm here at Turtle Rock Park. She also mentioned the upcoming Markleeville Creek Floodplain Restoration Project which will have a public meeting Mar. 30th at 1:00 pm at the Government Center in Markleeville. People interested in volunteering for water monitoring are always welcome. Anna Belle Monti of the U.S. Forest Service reported that they planned to have an in-person public pre-scoping meeting to discuss plans for restoration of the Tamarack Fire. She also mentioned that there is concrete interest from a private group to establish a saw mill in the Carson City area. This will make a huge difference in what can be done in the way of fuels reduction here on the east side of the Sierras. David Griffith mentioned that there is still some possible interest in starting a tree nursery in Alpine County and efforts to firm that up are continuing. There has also been some very preliminary conversations about having a seed gathering program later in the year to provide seeds for restoration of the Tamarack Fire. He also reported that a developer is potentially interested in the biomass-to-bioenergy project and will be meeting next week with Liberty Utilities and the Tahoe Fund.
Future Meetings: At this time we don’t have a presentation lined up for a meeting in April, but are continuing to reach out to possible speakers. Stay tuned. Suggestions for speakers whose work or research dovetails with our mission statement are always welcome.