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Forest Service warns about increasing fire risk


usfs-logo-282x300-2703083-5521838South Lake Tahoe, Calif. – The U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) is putting fire personnel on alert this Sunday due to the possibility of strong winds that could cause a wildland fire to become more intense and spread rapidly. Lack of rain or snow has already pushed the fire danger level back to high, and the Forest Service is urging the public to use caution with activities that could start a fire.

“We are essentially back in fire season,” said LTBMU fire chief Kit Bailey. “We’re asking the community to stay alert and keep wildfire prevention in mind as these strong winds approach, along with some of our driest weather on record for this time of year.”

Most wildland fires in the Lake Tahoe Basin are human-caused, with only four of the 37 wildland fires in 2011 attributed to lightning. Illegal and abandoned campfires remain the number one cause, leading to 14 of the 37 fires last year.

Campfires and warming fires generally are not allowed on national forest system lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and when they are allowed, require a campfire permit. This winter, disposal of woodstove and fireplace ashes has also been a concern, leading to two wildland fires and a structure fire. Ashes can remain live and capable of starting a fire for several days. State and local fire agencies recommend placing ashes in a metal container, which should not be stored in the house or garage, or on any flammable surface, such as a deck. The ashes should cool for at least four days before disposal and any hot spots doused with water.

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