Bud Hicks: How the Battle
for “Defensible Space” Helped Win
the Battle Against the Caldor Fire

The dangerous and destructive wind-driven Caldor Fire started on August 14, 2021, forced the closure of and crossed Highway 50, required evacuation orders in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and generated a state of emergency for the impacted area. The Caldor Fire is still an active wildfire which has destroyed more than 1,000 structures, burned 221,774 acres, and was 76% contained by September 26. One of the most important lessons from the progress in battling the Caldor fire is the success of what is known as “defensible space,” and the existence of defensible space in time for the Caldor Fire resulted from forward-thinking rules and regulations that were put in place during the years after the devastating 2007 Agora wildfire that occurred in the same area. As California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Public Information Office Marco Rodriguez stated about the Caldor Fire, “… a lot of the success we have had is due to the forest reduction and people being mindful of defensible space.” (“Containment increases on California’s Caldor Fire near Tahoe,” Associated Press, 9/3/2021)

Our Greatest Thanks to Bud Hicks!
The story about the Caldor Fire is a story about defensible space, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) that helped make it happen, and people, like Bud Hicks, who dedicate time, energy and effort to developing ideas, creating solutions and implementing models of change. To tell this important story, Law360 interviewed Bud, a Senior Counsel at McDonald Carano, who is one of 15 members on the governing board of the TRPA and the only presidentially appointed member who represents the United States. The TRPA is the only bi-state entity of its kind in the country and was formed specifically to protect Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is unique because it is divided by state lines in California and Nevada and it covers five counties, two cities and seven fire districts. The TRPA has jurisdiction over the entire lake, so it serves as a super-agency over all these different groups. As Bud explained in the interview, “one of the ongoing functions of the TRPA is to build and maintain consensus among all these different groups, to give all voices an opportunity to be heard, and to try to bring them to a common mind on these issues.”

McDonald Carano would like to take this opportunity to share Law360’s interview with Bud to acknowledge his many years of ongoing dedication to public service and his leadership in helping to protect our quality of life, safety of our communities and health of our environment for today and the future. Please click here to read Law360’s complete interview with Bud, in which he answers the following questions.

  • What is the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and how does it operate?
  • What rules and regulations had to be reevaluated as actual contributors to wildfires?
  • What is “defensible space” and what was the process for establishing defensible space?
  • What property owner rights arise in balancing public and private fire protection interests?
  • What are stream environment zones and how do they bring fire into an area?
  • What are the new rules about increasing mechanical clearing on slopes and streams?
  • What is the status of the $150 million 60,000-acre Lake Tahoe West forest treatment project?
  • What are powerline resilience corridors and how is TRPA working to prevent ignitions?
  • What else needs to be done to better protect people, land and buildings from fires?

About McDonald Carano

McDonald Carano has been shaping Nevada’s legal, business, and policy landscape since our founding in 1949. With more than 60 lawyers and government affairs professionals working from offices in Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City, we are Nevada’s law firm for business. Our local, national and global clients include Fortune 500 corporations, fast-growth and mid-market companies, entrepreneurs and startups, non-profit organizations, government entities, and high-net-worth individuals. Our attorneys deliver cross-discipline, one-stop, commercial law and government affairs counsel. Our dedication to clients, innovative thinking and practical solutions based in sound business and legal judgments are at the heart of our practice. For more information, please visit mcdonaldcarano.com or send an email to info@mcdonaldcarano.com.

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