Water pressure could hamper Lake Tahoe firefighters after sprinklers left on during evacuation


A firefighter battles the Caldor Fire along Highway 89, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, near South Lake Tahoe, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Firefighters in the Lake Tahoe Basin could come up against a problem they didn’t anticipate: low water pressure.

A news release from the Tahoe Fire and Fuels Team indicates authorities are finding homes with sprinkler systems left on — an apparent move by residents to prevent their homes from burning down.

But the result could be disastrous, robbing firefighters of water pressure to effectively fight the fast-advancing wildfire.

“Not only is this not helpful in protecting homes from wildfire, but it can be detrimental for firefighters who rely on a water supply with adequate water flow to fight fire in extremely dangerous conditions,” the news release says.

Officials also advise people not to spray down roofs and vegetation — steps that are ineffective in wildfire conditions.

Only about 10% of homes lost in wildfires are ignited by flames or surface fires. The large majority — 90% — are lost because embers start fires, officials said.

“Hardening homes to ember intrusion is one of the most effective preparedness efforts residents can take to protect their homes in a wildfire,” according to North Tahoe Fire Chief Steve Leighton.

“We ask that you turn off any outdoor irrigation, roof sprinklers or hoses before you evacuate to ensure our firefighters have ample water and enough water pressure to safely fight the fire,” Leighton said. “Clear roofs of pine needles and leaf litter, remove combustible decorations, furniture and cushions from decks, and clear away any other combustible material to help prevent homes from catching fire.”

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