A newly enacted Placer County pilot ordinance requires owners of unimproved parcels in the Lake Tahoe area to remove excessive vegetation. Inspections of the parcels have begun and property owners will be notified of their need to remove the vegetation. Should the property owner fail to comply with the ordinance, compulsory removal will be ordered and the property owner billed for removal costs and administrative fees.
The ordinance is in effect in the eastern portion of Placer County and involves four fire protection districts: Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, North Tahoe and Northstar.
“This is a very proactive ordinance enacted by the Placer County Board of Supervisors,” said CalFire Unit Chief Brad Harris, who is also the Placer County Fire Warden. “The ordinance will allow the fire service community to further provide for the safety of the citizens of Placer County. But, more importantly the ordinance will allow for the homeowner to provide the defensible space needed for the protection of their homes.”
The ordinance seeks to educate property owners about the necessity of creating defensible space around structures located in the wildland-urban interface, where homes and other buildings are located in, or very near, forestlands. The fire districts will make inspections on unimproved parcels and notify property owners that their overgrown property creates a fire hazard. Should the owner fail to comply, a “notice of abatement” will be issued to the owner. Should that administrative action fail to elicit compliance, a private contractor will enter the property and remove the vegetation. The property owner will be billed for removal and administrative costs. If payment is not forthcoming, the property will have a lien placed against it.
“Catastrophic wildfire is the largest threat to most of Placer County,” said Supervisor Bruce Kranz, whose 5th District runs from north Auburn to the Nevada Stateline, including Placer County’s portion of Lake Tahoe. “I introduced this ordinance to the Board because I realized that we needed to do whatever we can to reduce the fire threat. This ordinance is a strong step in that direction.”
This pilot ordinance applies only to unimproved parcels and will be reviewed after a year. It may be expanded to other areas of the county, including the western slope and may include improved parcels as well.
The proposed ordinance balances the fire prevention interests of home owners, business owners and communities against the individual property rights of those owners whose properties are assessed by fire professionals to be an extra hazardous fire condition and a public nuisance. In this instance, the proposed ordinance, more broadly expandable to other property classifications and other areas in future years, provides a tool that can be applied when all other efforts have been unsuccessful.