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South Lake Tahoe adopts new defensible space ordinance

South Lake Tahoe City Council tightens requirements for defensible space
South Lake Tahoe City Council tightens requirements for defensible space 01:50

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — An ordinance recently adopted by South Lake Tahoe City Council is tightening the requirements of defensible space.

"I feel like the Caldor Fire was really a warning," said Kim George, fire marshal for South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue.

George said the ordinance adopted on June 18 builds off of a state code of defensible space requirements.

"Instead of it being a public resource code, we adopted it into the city to be a city ordinance so it gives us more of an ability to enforce it," George said.

The state code has a list of requirements for defensible space for mountainous areas or high fire zones, including South Lake Tahoe.

However, the code only applies to residential parcels.

"This is going to apply to any unapproved lot and every business as well as the residential structures. It won't apply to state or federal lands," George said.

George said the ordinance also requires nothing combustible to be around a five-foot perimeter of the structure.

"The first five feet makes such a big difference. There's nothing combustible and then it doesn't necessarily ignite and bring the fire to the house. It keeps it five feet away which surprisingly makes a big difference," George said.

Bert Sedillo is a homeowner and business owner in South Lake Tahoe. He manages the defensible space of multiple vacation homes in the area.

He thinks the ordinance is important because it keeps everyone, including tourists, safe.

"In the end, just by clearing it out, you're going to ensure a better percentage that your house isn't going to be on fire, which means you can rent it out so it can be a money producer or you can come and enjoy your own home," Sedillio said.

George said the five-foot perimeter, or "Zone Zero," was brought by a measure that would eventually require this for California anyway.

"That is something that is going to change for the state, probably not until the end of next year. So we're just hoping to be in front of this and helping our community understand that this is coming and easing into the whole concept," George said.

The ordinance goes into effect on July 18 but George said you should start now. If you don't comply, you will get a warning which could be possibly followed by a citation and a fine.

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