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Expert: Tahoe Faces Same Fire Threat As Southern Calif.

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Industry leaders warned at a logging conference in Reno today that overstocked forests around Lake Tahoe are in danger of suffering the same sort of catastrophic wildfires that burned 750,000-acres in Southern California last year.

Tom Bonnicksen is a forestry professor at Texas A M University who has been studying the aftermath of the fires in San Bernardino County.

He says he wants Lake Tahoe residents to know they will NOT be safe if all they do is clear brush around their homes or build narrow little fuel breaks.

He says if a big fire starts at Tahoe it will be virtually unstoppable. He told reporters, “I don´t think people in the Tahoe basin fully appreciate exactly how dangerous it is.”

Bonnicksen and others urged more intensive logging and thinning of forests miles away from residential areas in order to keep catastrophic fires at bay. He says some large trees will have to be cut as well as underbrush.

Jay Watson, the wildland fire program director for The Wilderness Society, took exception to the claims. He describes

Bonnicksen as “the timber industry´s hired, scientist gun.”

Watson says the timber industry can play an important role in reducing fire risks. But he says if the industry insists on revving up its chain saws in America´s old-growth forests, it is “in for a buzz-saw of opposition.”