Tahoe-like wildfire could happen here | TheUnion.com

Tahoe-like wildfire could happen here

A raging fire in western Nevada County like the one currently out of control near Lake Tahoe is quite possible, according to a county fire chief.

“It’s just simply a matter of time and it will require a windy day,” said Nevada County Consolidated Fire District Chief Tim Fike this morning.

A lack of rain and snow this year has caused grass, brush and trees to be as dry now as they generally are in August, Fike said, with only about one-third normal moisture.

Fike said fields of scotch broom and manzinita are already 30 percent dead in western Nevada County and extremely volatile. “Pretty much the whole county is primed,” for a bad wildfire, Fike said.

Fike said the county has a flexible evacuation plan for natural disasters with the idea that fire is the most likely to occur here. The plan does not earmark certain areas to take pre-determined escape routes because that could send people straight into a blaze, Fike said.

Instead, the county can utilize its interagency dispatch center and a new mobile command center to let local media outlets broadcast and place safe evacuation routes on the Internet on a timely basis, Fike said.

Fike estimated that only 20 percent of the homes in the areas outside of Nevada City and Grass Valley have cleared defensible fire spaces of 100 feet around them, adding to the potential problem of catastrophic wildfire.

“The logs on the ground are below the lowest (moisture) level of last year, which was also a dry fire season,” Fike said. “They hold and generate a lot of heat,” which is what is happening near Tahoe. “There’s a bunch of dead and dying (fuels) on the ground up there from years of having no fire in the woods.”

For the full story, see Tuesday’s edition of The Union.

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