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  • WildFire Defensible Space Safety And a Great Knife

    Angora fire from Pope Beach Angora fire from Pope Beach

    Defensible space is a term used by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It is the yard space around your home that must be cleared of flammable vegetation to reduce the chance that a wildfire will destroy your home.


    By law, in California, you must clear an area 30 feet from your home of surrounding flammable vegetation. This includes keeping tree limbs 10 feet from a home chimney and adding a less than 1/2 inch mesh screen over the chimney.

    You must also reduce flammable vegetation an additional 70 feet surrounding your home.  This includes:


    Trimming tree limbs from the ground to keep the fire from climbing a vertical ladder into the tree.


    Removing plants from under trees.


    Spacing plants vertically and horizontally to help keep fire from jumping from one to the other.


    Remove all needles from your roof and gutter.


    You can download a pdf of the requirements at Cal Fires Website. These requirements are for California, but the tips apply anywhere. Check your local laws for your area's requirements.


    We were trapped by a Wildfire fire in 2007. The fire was called the Angora Fire and happened in tha area of South Lake Tahoe, California. We were camping and had just a few minutes to evacuate our fifth wheel trailer from our campground. We happened to have a great knife with us that helped us cut tie lines and reduce the amount of time it took to move out. We were able to move, but could not get out of the area. We had to spend the night at Pope Beach and watch the fire progress toward us. You can read about that story by clicking A good folding knife can save you.


    This type of fire can happen in any area that has grass, trees and homes. Many people lost their homes in this fire and when we last checked in 2014, many of the homes were still in various stages of rebuilding.


    Don't be a victim of wild fire.  Have defensible space.


  • Black Bear Pepper Spray Repellent Works Lake Tahoe California

    I was watching  Animal Planet's Blond vs Bear episode "Breaking Point", They report that there are over 600 Black Bears in the Lake Tahoe area.  As a result, there are about 100 calls a day to the Bear League. Some of these are called emergencies, because a bear has interacted with people in a way that is dangerous for the people, bear, or both.

    The Bear League tries to protect these Black Bears by trying to scare them away and back into the forest. In this episode, they use knowledge of Black Bear behaviour, noise, rocks, paint ball guns, and non-lethal shotgun rubber bullets to scare the bears away.

    The problem is if the bear didn't learn to stay away from the experience, it will probably return. Black Bears sometimes have to be repelled a number of times before they will be trained to stay away. If they become a nuisance, they have a good chance of being trapped and destroyed.

    Other than the TV show, I read about a multiple year study in the Lake Tahoe area. Biologists found that after 1,000 encounters with 150 bears that a number of bears will return after being hit with rubber bullets or pepper spray.

    Black Bears struck with rubber shotgun slugs would run away, but 90 percent of them would return within an hour.

    Black Bears hit with Bear Pepper Spray Repellent, would also run away, but only 82 percent would return within an hour.

    The above numbers show that Black Bear pepper spray repellent works better in training the bears to stay away.  Be sure to buy a couple of  bear spray cans and have them with you while renting cabins, or camping in bear country.

    The best thing to do to reduce Black Bear encounters is to learn bear behaviour before you rent or camp in bear country. Too often, tourists rent houses and cabins, or camp in the Tahoe area without any knowledge of how to live in Black Bear Country. They leave food out in the open, doors and windows standing open, and garbage out where the scent can be picked up by bears.

    Some tips you can follow:

    Keep food locked in bear proof containers while camping, and keep garbage locked in bear proof trash containers. This is a good start to keeping bears away. If they come to your area and do not find food, they will travel on to another area.

    If renting a cabin or home, keep windows and doors closed, especially while cooking. Bears can easily rip screens or hook doors with their claws to get to food.  

    If a Black Bear does get into your home, then is the time to try to give it escape routes by opening doors, if it is safe to do so.  If a Black Bear feels pinned in it can be a dangerous situation. If you can get out without having to go toward the bear, do so.  If you can't get out make loud noise, but again make sure the bear has a way to get out in a direction away from you.

    Black Bear attacks in the Lake Tahoe are rare. If you use Bear Spray in self defense of a bear, keep in mind that if used indoors, or you are down wind, it can leave a small residue in the air. You may experience a little burn sensation in your eyes and nose. The irritant should dissipate from the air in about 15 minutes. If you feel the need, you can flush your face with water, but do not use creams that could cause the irritant to stick to your face.

    Always remember to never try to take food away from a bear, never get between a bear and a cub, and never run from a bear.

    The older Black Bear cub in the above photo was thought to have lost its mother and was in camp daily during a week long camping trip. We don't know his/her fate, but camp hosts feared the bear had chosen people as a new family. That means that as the bear grows up, that nuisance danger for the bear might happen. Please don't feed bears.

    To learn more Lake Tahoe Black Bear Facts see our posts Black Bear Facts and Purchase Black Bear Pepper Spray for Camping and Hiking

  • Black Bear Facts & Pepper Spray Repellent in The Lake Tahoe Area

    Everyone that has known us for awhile can tell you that our favorite places to be during the summer and fall are the Sierra Mountains. Yosemite National Park, Fallen Leaf Lake, and Lake Tahoe are some of our usual destinations. One thing these three places have in common is Black Bears.

    I would like pass on what Rangers have told me about Black Bears. I learned some of  this while camping with Rangers testing bear proof containers above Hetch Hetchy reservoir,  just outside Yosemite National Park, California. This area is where they took bears then that were causing problems in the Yosemite valley.  I have bear stories from that trip, but that is another blog . Other information came from the Lake Tahoe area Back Bear safety pamphlets.

    A bear’s prime motivation is food! Bears are attracted to easy meals, anywhere people prepare or leave food. If a bear doesn’t find food, it moves on.

    Black Bears are normally docile. When given a way to avoid conflict with people, bears usually take it. When they have food though, they will protect it and their cubs. Have a can of bear pepper spray repellent with you and ready to use, but only use it if the bear attacks.

    Black Bear attacks are rare. Even if a Black Bear charges, it will usually stop before reaching you as long as you give them space and are not between the bear and cub. An important thing to remember is not to run. 

    Bears are not vindictive and do not get mad when food is stored where they can’t get to it. They will stay around until they have run out of ideas though.

    Black bears are smart. They learn rapidly and know where they have found food in the past. When there is a smell of food, sweet drinks, makeup, or they have found food at a location before they will search for it. They can easily get into a tent and have been known to pry into cars, home window screens, and doors. 

    While camping, it is always best to store food in a bear box (found in developed campsites), or hung on a tree line or small limb out of reach of bears. And don't forget that garbage smells like food to a bear.

    People around you need to be educated. If you do all the right things and your neighbor does not, an attracted bear will look around you too.

    Black Bears climb trees when frightened. Treed bears will eventually come down if left alone, but may stay in the tree for several days.

    Black bears, not used to people, are normally like cattle.  They scare away easily with noise and thrown rocks. Never try to take back food a bear has found and never get between a mother bear and her cub(s).

    Just like people, when you think you know their habits, someone breaks the mold and does something different. It is the same for Black Bears. Black Bears in the Lake Tahoe area are used to people.  They will walk right into your camp looking for food and they are harder to scare away. See our post Purchase Bear Pepper Spray For Camping & Hiking for examples.

    Unfortunately, Lake Tahoe area Black Bears will come to your camp, people there or not. This is where they can be dangerous and un-informed people can get hurt.  If a bear comes into your camp and gets food, do not try to get it back.  Just like a dog, they will protect their food. They will also protect cubs, so give them space until they leave.

    Be safe out there and remember to purchase bear pepper spray repellent for camping and to use it only in defense of a bear attack.

    More true stories to come.

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