New Wildfire Guidelines

The following is a guest post by Tom Daly.  He follows area fire issues.

New Wildland Code in Washoe County

On Tuesday May 12th the Washoe County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) adopted an updated wildland code impacting homeowners, among others, especially those in wildfire risk areas.
Amending Chapter 60 of the Washoe County Code, the BCC adopted the 2018 edition of the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code (IWUIC), as amended.
The IWUIC addresses, among other obligations, requirements for homeowners to maintain specified distances between homes (structures) and fuels (non-fire resistive vegetation). Those distances are based on what ‘wildfire hazard zone’ your home is in. Those zones are either ‘moderate’, ‘high’ or ‘extreme’.

For Washoe County, a map showing those zones can be found here:

https://gis.washoecounty.us/wrms/firehazard  (zoom-in to see fire zones)

Note: red indicates “extreme hazard”, orange “high”, green “moderate”, and blue “low”.

For homes in a ‘moderate’ wildfire hazard zone, a 30ft wide buffer between a home and hazardous vegetation is required. In a ‘high’ zone that distance is 50ft and in an ‘extreme’ zone, it is 100ft.
Per Section 603.2.2 of the code, ‘Trees are allowed with the ‘defensible space’ provided that the horizontal distance between crowns of adjacent trees and crowns of trees and structures, overhead electrical facilities or unmodified fuel is not less than 10 feet’.
Homeowners and, in some limited cases, HOAs are responsible for maintaining these distances.
The IWUIC Section 607.1 further provides that ‘firewood shall not be stored in unenclosed spaces beneath buildings, or on decks or under eaves, canopies, or other projections or overhangs’.
To assist homeowners in evaluating such conditions, Truckee Meadows Fire Rescue (TMFR) has a new fuels management team available. For more information see

https://www.washoecounty.us/tmfpd/fire-prevention/fire-hazard-concerns.php

As wildfire season will start soon, prudent prevention is paramount.

ADDENDUM

These requirements can be legally enforced.  Per the Washoe County Code (WCC) Sec. 60.100.050, up to $1,000 per occurrence and/or six months in jail.

Also, the Fire District can ask the DA to seek a court order for compliance, with penalties up to and including eviction of the occupant (Sec. 60.110.4.6).

While not a local case, I know of instances where a County has declared such conditions to be a ‘nuisance’ and, with a warrant, enter the property and abate the hazard with the cost to do so being entered as a lien on the property.

Washoe County has a ‘Nuisance Code’, see WCC Chap. 50.

Enforcement usually starts with educating the offender as to the hazard and the need for abatement, followed by an ‘order to abate’.

Proactive enforcement of this code (2012 edition adopted in 2014) historically in the TMFPD has been in response to a complaint, typically from a neighbor whose property is threatened by hazardous vegetation his neighbor has failed to abate.

Real world examples of the failure to abate were evident in the 2007 Angora Fire in South Lake Tahoe, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angora_Fire.

One homeowner, who had ensured his home had the requisite ‘defensible space’, nonetheless saw his home burn to the ground as neither of his adjacent neighbors had done any fuel reduction. The fire swept thru the neighborhood and some 250 homes were lost.

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