5 Feb 2009, 6:44pm
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Official: Tahoe fire bill must be rewritten

by Brendan Riley (AP), Tahoe Daily Tribune, February 5, 2009 [here]

CARSON CITY — A measure to enact some of the recommendations of a California-Nevada fire commission formed following a catastrophic Lake Tahoe fire in mid-2007 must be rewritten because of concerns about its wording, state lawmakers were told Wednesday.

Members of the Senate Government Affairs Committee were told by Allen Biaggi, head of the Nevada Conservation and Natural Resources Department, that SB94 will be brought back to the panel once the issues are resolved.

“Like most things in the Tahoe Basin, nothing is particularly easy,” Biaggi told Government Affairs members in describing concerns such as the prospect of Nevada ending up with California-style fire safety requirements that it doesn’t really want.

“We don’t want to have a regulatory structure like California’s,” Biaggi said. “In fact, the Tahoe Basin Fire Commission recognized Nevada as having pragmatic and commonsense regulations.”

SB94, one of the products of the fire commission’s efforts over a 10-month period following the June 2007 Angora Fire, includes wording that says Nevada shall adopt rules that are similar to California laws dealing with ways to control fire hazards in wildland and adjacent areas.

Biaggi said the intent of the bill is to have uniform standards for open or “defensible” space around homes so that fires can’t easily spread from one property to another. He said there had been a lot of homeowner confusion about such standards.

Besides the defensible-space standards, the bistate fire commission said thinning of overgrown forests around communities should be completed by about 2013 and by about 2018 throughout the Tahoe Basin.

The Angora Fire destroyed 254 homes and caused $140 million in property damage in the South Lake Tahoe, Calif., area. The fire also exposed long-standing rivalries between local, state, federal and regional agencies charged with protecting Tahoe’s environment or promoting fire protection.

A report by The Associated Press exposed numerous examples of bureaucratic backbiting that delayed tree clearing throughout the basin, sometimes for years. More than 4,000 pages of internal documents from numerous agencies illustrated a dysfunctional planning and fire-prevention process.



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